A delicious combination of two common ingredients, Chinese ginger chicken delivers complex aroma and flavour, yet is amazingly simple to cook.
Which Chinese chicken dishes have you cooked or tasted? Kung Pao Chicken, Black Pepper Chicken, Chicken Chop Suey or Three Cup Chicken? If you like any of the above, today’s recipe, Ginger Chicken, should be your next dish to try. It’s as flavoursome as the others and very easy to cook too.
A classic of Hunan Cuisine (Xiang Cai, 湘菜), ginger chicken is basically a dish of chopped chicken pieces braised with a generous amount of ginger in a soy sauce based brown sauce. It also includes wood ear mushrooms for extra texture and nutrition.
Two key ingredients
Which chicken cut to choose
My favourite cut for this dish is boneless, skinless chicken thighs as they’re flavorful and easy to handle. Simply cut them into bite-sized pieces. Chicken breasts would work too, but they tend to be less tender after braising.
That being said, please feel free to follow the traditional version which uses bone-in and skin-on pieces from all parts of a chicken. My dad would always chop a whole chicken into small pieces with a cleaver to cook dishes like this. But I haven’t yet mastered that skill.
What is “old ginger”
The Chinese name of this dish Lao Jiang Ji (老姜鸡) literally means old ginger chicken. Knowing this, are you wondering what old ginger is and where to find it?
Don’t worry! As opposed to young ginger which has pale skin and pink ends, old ginger refers to mature ginger root which is the common type you’d find in any shop. It has a stronger ginger aroma and spiciness than young ones thus making a more noticeable contribution to the flavour of a dish.
Other ingredients you need
Apart from chicken and ginger, you’ll also need the following items:
- Wood ear mushrooms. It has a crunchy texture and is excellent at soaking up flavours from the sauce. It usually comes in dried form, so requires rehydrating beforehand. If unavailable, replace it with other types of mushrooms or vegetables of your choice.
- Garlic & fresh chillies. They add extra aroma and tang to the dish.
- Light soy sauce & dark soy sauce. They’re the main source of the savoury taste. The latter also provides an appetizing colour.
- Shaoxing rice wine. A classic condiment for Chinese meat-based dishes. Skip it if you wish to make the dish alcohol-free.
- Sesame oil. It adds a hint of nuttiness.
- White pepper, or black pepper
- Salt & sugar. A small amount of sugar is for balancing the taste but it can be omitted.
- Scallions, for garnishing
Note: If you wish to learn more about the seasonings used in this recipe, check out my post on 10 Must-Have Chinese Condiments which provide more information.
The Cooking Process
It takes three simple steps to cook ginger chicken: sear the chicken; braise it with aromatics and seasonings; cook down the liquid and garnish. You may use a traditional carbon steel wok, a non-stick wok or a deep frying pan.
Heat up oil (any cooking oil with a neutral flavour) then add chopped chicken. Sear it over high heat until all sides of the chunks lose their pinkness.
🛎Tip: If you’re using cookware without non-stick coating, you can avoid sticking by 1. Heat the wok/pan empty until smoking hot, then add oil and the chicken; 2. Only flip the chicken when the bottom side turns pale (Don’t handle it too often).
Add wood ear, ginger, garlic, light and dark soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, white pepper, salt and sugar. Stir fry for 30 seconds or so to evenly distribute the ingredients. Pour in about 120ml (½ cup) water.
Cover with a lid and braise for 5 minutes (remain high heat). If you use bone-in chicken chunks or larger pieces, prolong the braising time accordingly.
Remove the lid and add sesame oil and fresh chilli. Continue cooking over high heat to reduce the liquid. Stir around a few times. To finish, sprinkle chopped scallions.
Serve the dish
A bowl of steamed rice is all you need to enjoy ginger chicken with. To make it a more healthy meal, serve a vegetable dish on the side. It can be a simple Chinese cucumber salad, a quick bean sprout stir-fry or blanched Gai Lan (Chinese broccoli) with oyster sauce.
Don’t limit yourself with this option though. I often use it as a topping for hand-pulled noodles (or hand-torn noodles), just like how you serve Xinjiang Big Plate Chicken with belt noodles. It’s absolutely delicious!
If you wish to include this dish in a multi-course festive meal, e.g. Chinese New Year feast, you can cook it in advance and reheat it right before serving.
Ginger Chicken (老姜鸡)
- 2 tablespoon neutral cooking oil
- 6 pieces boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks - about 600g/1.3lb (see note 1)
- 12 slices ginger
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed
- 10 g dried wood ear mushrooms - rehydrated beforehand (see note 2)
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 120 ml water - about ½ cup
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- Fresh chilli, finely chopped - to taste
- 1 stalk scallions, finely chopped
- Heat oil in a wok/pan. Add chicken to sear over high heat until it loses the pinkness.
- Add ginger, garlic, wood ear, light and dark soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, white pepper, salt and sugar. Stir fry for 30 seconds then add water. Cover with a lid and braise for 5 minutes (remain high heat).
- Uncover. Add sesame oil and fresh chili. Continue cooking over high heat (without the lid) until the liquid reduces to the desired amount.
- Stir in scallions then serve immediately with steamed rice or as a topping for noodles.
NUTRITION DISCLOSURE: Nutritional information on this website is provided as a courtesy to readers. It should be considered estimates. Please use your own brand nutritional values or your preferred nutrition calculator to double check against our estimates.
I cooked your Ginger Chicken on plain rice topped with your Mung bean sprout stir-fry last night.
Both individually and together they were great dishes!
Wei Guo says
That sounds like a great combination. Glad you enjoyed the meal.
Bill DuBose says
Made this to specifications and it turned out brilliantly! Whole family said it is a keeper! Thanks for your awesome collection of recipes. Trying the beef stew one tonight.
Wei Guo says
Glad you and your family enjoyed the dish. Happy cooking Bill!
I cooked this recipe for the 3rd time last night. One of the recipients was my elder daughter who said “Dad. This is the best meal you have ever cooked. Can I have the recipe? I supplied it to her!
I have cooked your Hunan Ginger Chicken twice now. First time was with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. It was lovely! (I was a bit timid on how many red chilli seeds I included.)
2 nights ago (Mother’s Day in NZ) I cooked it again, this time using chicken legs with bone in and skin on – that’s what I had! (I increased the cooking time, as you suggested.) And I was less timid with the red chilli seeds!
Served on steamed rice, the dish was a hit! Not a crumb remained 😉
Susan Chee says
This dish is really delicious and is definitely a keeper. Like your father, I used a whole chicken(1.4kg) which was cut up as chicken tastes great with the bone in. I omitted the wood fungus as it’s not a pantry staple but it was still a dish enjoyed by the family and which was served with blanched broccolini in oyster sauce as an accompaniment. The chicken’s enough for 1 1/2 meals and am toying with the idea of cooking some extra sauce for the second meal and adding some sliced abalone to bulk it up.
I cooked this last night. I’d say 4.5 if I had the option, checked with my partner first!
Crisp and distinct flavours. A very enjoyable/enjoyed meal!
I cooked exactly to Wei’s instructions!
Hi Wei Guo,
It often happens to me that I follow Chinese receipes and they simply don’t work (I lived in China for some years and I am longing for good Chinese food). The problem with this receipe was that the chicken got cooked in water, was dry and the souce very watery. I added the exact proportions you indicated. What have I done wrong?
Wei Guo says
Sorry to hear your dish didn’t turn out as expected. Did you use chicken thighs? Chicken breast isn’t recommended for this recipe. Have you cooked the dish over high heat as instructed in the recipe? Other than these two potential problems, I don’t know why it has gone wrong for you.
Kalia Kliban says
This recipe is a keeper. Though I added more wood ears (I love that texture!) I prepared everything else as written, and very tasty it was, too. I might bump up the scallions next time. The flavors were well balanced and the texture was lovely. It would definitely be nice with some blanched greens alongside it.
Wei Guo says
Glad you liked this dish Kalia. Yes, pair it with simply blanched greens and steamed rice. They make a healthy and tasty meal.
Absolutely delicious made as is and served with rice! I used leftovers the next day to make a ginger chicken wrap, again delicious. Thank you.
Wei Guo says
Yes, it can be enjoyed in many ways. Glad you liked it!
Made it and loved it, used dry chili that’s all I could get and put some sweet peppers in, cause I had many 😁 thank you, so so good
Wei Guo says
So happy to know you enjoyed it Madahen!