Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Best Chicken I've Ever Had - Chicken Village (Ji Cun) Panyu

Ji Cun's signature "crystal chicken"
I'd been here once before, two years ago, and in my mind, no chicken has topped this. Seriously, sometimes I wake up at night thinking about Ji Cun's "crystal chicken".

"Crystal" is a homophone for "steamed" in Chinese (both Cantonese and Mandarin), and that's what this chicken is - steamed. There's bit of salt but that's really it. To serve, they chop it up in eight pieces and give you plastic gloves. There's no place (or point) for ladylike nibbling here, especially if you go with me. It's glove on, and game on. First one to the leg wins!

(Really bad photo, I apologise - I basically just stuck my camera into the pot without looking because I was too busy nomming, and I cropped out the chicken head - too much, even for me!). This is just to show the oils that usually remain, except this time because we were late, the juices started flowing out of the chicken - still delicious, but the oils were a bit 'diluted' if you know what I mean. They leave the chooks in the ceramic pot thingy so they were a little overcooked too. But still - best chicken I've ever had, full stop.

Pan-fried tofu with pork
The other stuff is just kind of "there" to fill up the table and our stomachs (I never understood why we can't just order 3 chickens, some rice and call it day). It's not bad, it's actually still good Cantonese/nongjia (農家 farmer's) food, but I always leave feeling like I want to takeaway a chicken...

The tofu above iis pretty good actually, they make it in house and it's light and silky, yet packed with soy flavours.

Steamed egg with chicken's blood
The egg was steamed to perfection - a good amount of water in the egg, well-controlled heat and time -  but was nothing overly special. Steamed egg is a staple that no self-respecting Chinese chef can mess up. The blood was almost tasteless and the texture was a little grainy, with a tough 'skin' on the outside that wasn't entirely pleasant.
Lotus root stuffed with green beans
Lotus root stuffed ever so meticulously (cheap labour) with green beans. Hearty, starchy veg, very nice.

Salted chicken
The salted chicken was nowhere as good as the plain "crystal" one. It was really salty and, this being China, they probably used crappy salt.

Three cup chicken
This is actually a Taiwanese dish, named so because of the simple recipe of one part each of sesame oil, soy sauce and Shaoxing wine (紹興酒). I say one "part" because it isn't necessarily one "cup" - for a dish like this you probably only need a few tablespoons of each. This wasn't a particularly good rendition - there was either too much light soy or salt. It was way too salty, and completely obliterated what nice flavours the chicken would have had itself.

Pan-fried fish "bones"  
Of course, there was more than just bones to this dish, in fact it had quite a bit of flesh on it. These are most likely the offcuts from filleting the fish for other dishes. I like how they try to use to entire fish.

Steamed super long beans. I forgot what they're called. Quite starchy and probably tossed around in a wok later on with some waxed/preserved pork, oftentimes belly (臘肉 laap yook in Cantonese or la rou  Mandarin).

Chicken and salted fish on claypot rice

By now I was pretty stuffed, so I didn't have much of the chicken or the salted fish. I just had a bowl of this:

The crispy rice crust!
Ji Cun (aka Chicken Village) 雞邨大飯店
550 Ying Bin Lu
+86 (0) 20 8466 1010

It's virtually impossible to get there on public transport - hire a driver, or at least get a cab (personally I wouldn't recommend it, cab drivers can be dodgy in China). It's about 1.5-2 hours from Shenzhen, or 30 mins from Guangzhou.

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