Birds 17: Seared Eight Pieces (灼八塊)

“Take a tender chicken and chop it into eight pieces. Fry them lightly in oil until cooked. Pour away the oil then add one cup of light soy sauce and half a jin of wine of to the chicken. Braise it until done and plate immediately. Do not use water in cooking and cook using a strong flame.”

灼八塊
嫩雞一隻,斬八塊,滾油炮透,去油,加清醬一杯、酒半斤,煨熟便起,不用水,用武火。

kolkata_chilli_chicken
Fried and braised “Kolkata Chilli Chicken”. Not the same recipe, but the technique is similar enough. (Credit: TanBanMi)

Not sure how a fried and braised chicken can count as “seared”. But then again I don’t name these dishes, I just translate them.

Update: After a bit of thought, the name should actually not be “Seared Eight Pieces” but more “Scalded Eight Pieces”. And that almost one litre of boiling wine used at the end is likely the scalding liquid.

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2 thoughts on “Birds 17: Seared Eight Pieces (灼八塊)”

  1. Over the last few days, I’ve been wondering what “烧” (or, in this case, “煨”) really means.

    Taken literally, “烧” means to burn. “煨” means to braise.

    Yet “烧” been (I’ll assume correctly) been linked to braising – a technique that not only requires water, but rather water at what’s really a low temperature compared to everything else.

    A gentle touch for meat is definitely the way to go, but I tried to see if there’s more. The use of “煨” to finish a dish that is supposedly seared, yet only lightly fried here only makes me suspect further.

    In fact, this entire recipe makes sense up until the part where it says to braise the chicken in a lot of liquid “without water” “with a strong flame”. This is chicken that has already been fried until cooked.

    So what are we really trying to do here?

    Whatever this “煨” is, it’s clearly to finish the chicken. If this was pork, we’d expect something along the lines of “spray with pepper and salt” after the “fry until well-done”.

    In this finishing process, I think yuan mei (well, if not him then at least yang er) is really trying to evaporate the sauces being put in – both the alcohol and the soy – very rapidly, while stirring. The namesake then makes a lot of sense, since soy and alcohol will leave behind a brown, and more importantly dry look that tastes anything but when evaporated quickly. A seared finish.

    The high heat then makes sense, since you want the liquid contents to be gone before they can boil the chicken further. Likewise with water.

    This still leaves the matter regarding the amount of sauce to be put in. There’s very little chance that all the sauces being added in (about a 700ml bottle’s worth)) will just up itself into the air. Open flames can only do so much. Multiple attempts at this kind of finish, the kind that would indeed make the chicken look seared, definitely would take about that much.

    Or maybe I’m making a big deal out of an imaginary issue.

    1. This is definitely a real issue here, not just for translation/factual accuracy but also because I would like to try out many of the dishes. You’re right that 燒/烧 has more than one meaning and applied commonly to the wet or dry and indirect and direct heat(no cooking container) cooking methods. The only commonality is that you use high heat.

      What initially confused me a was the word 灼, which in daily used has a “burnt” meaning. But now that I looked a bit more into it, the culinary used of the term is more for a quick scalding (usually with just water) than for grilling. So thanks for the heads-up! This then turns the question into why are 煨 (braise) and 油炮 (parfrying) used to describe scalding? Perhaps that 700ml of wine and soy sauce is just the scalding liquid and not meant to be reduced and served?

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