Serving a whole chicken during the Lunar New Year symbolizes prosperity and togetherness. For even more luck, use a chicken that still has the head and feet. There are plenty of popular preparations such as steaming or boiling, but this particular recipe uses the Cantonese BBQ method. The chicken is marinated overnight in a spiced soy sauce honey mixture with the addition of garlic and ginger. Before roasting, it is air-dried at room temperature to promote a crispy skin. It is cooked on each side, then brushed with an oil honey coating before finishing off in the oven. The result is a beautifully cooked chicken with a golden, crispy skin and moist, tender meat.
I don’t cook whole chickens often and have been trying to get better. This was a great recipe for a beginner. I trussed the chicken before marinating to keep the wings and legs from overly drying out and promote even cooking. There are a few different ways to do this, but I used this guide.
To make sure the skin of the chicken was completely dry before roasting, I let it rest at room temperature uncovered for 30 minutes with a fan aimed at it. Every bit of moisture should be removed before placing it in the oven.
Serve the chicken with steamed rice. Any juices that accumulate in the bottom of the roasting pan are delicious drizzled over the rice.
If the chicken starts to get too dark before cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, loosely cover the top with oil greased foil or even just the tips of the wings and ends of the legs/other areas that are becoming too dark.
Shaoxing wine is a fermented rice wine originally from Shaoxing in the Zhejiang province in eastern China. I have been able to find it at larger grocery stores with a sizeable wine selection, such as Wegmans. It is also available in Asian food markets specializing in Chinese ingredients. Chinese rose wine (Mei Kuei Lu Chiew) is not actually rose, but a clear sorghum-based liquor made from distilled rose petals. It has an alcohol level of roughly 54 percent. If you can’t find either, substitute with sherry.
Chinese Roast Chicken
Adapted from Rasa Malaysia
1 (3 pound) whole chicken
4 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon Shaoxing or Chinese rose wine
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large pinch white pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
Thoroughly rinse the inside and outside of the chicken. Pat dry. Truss the whole chicken or just the legs.
In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, five spice powder, wine, sesame oil, salt, and pepper. Rub the marinade all over the inside and outside of the chicken. Place the garlic cloves and ginger inside the cavity and transfer the chicken to a bowl or large plastic bag. Cover with remaining marinade, cover or seal, and refrigerate overnight, turning the chicken once to evenly coat.
Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the garlic and ginger. Allow the chicken to rest at room temperature uncovered until the skin is dry, about 30 minutes. Use a draft or fan if needed to help the process.
Place oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Place chicken on oiled rack fitted in roasting pan. Cook for 45 minutes, until the top is golden. Flip the chicken to the other side and cook for another 15 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, honey, and sesame oil. Brush the surface of the chicken with the oil mixture and cook for 10 minutes. Flip, brush the other side with oil, and cook for another 10 minutes, until deeply golden.
Allow to cool for 20 minutes before separating and serving.