Tau Yew Kay, or Soya Sauce Chicken, is a simple but extremely tasty method of cooking chicken that has become a staple of many Chinese Malaysian households. It is basically poached chicken, but the liquor that is used for poaching packs a huge punch of flavour, and also helps to keep the chicken moist. Originally a Cantonese dish, you often see soya sauce chicken hanging up in restaurant windows along with Peking duck and sides of siew yoke and char siew. We often order a plate or two when going out for a dim sum meal, and it always seems to be popular among the crowd.
Although traditionally the chicken is cooked whole, I choose to use thighs and drumsticks in my recipe. I find that they’re easier to store if we don’t demolish the dish in one sitting, and my wife and friends tend to prefer dark meat to chicken breast, which can be dryer. If you want to cook a whole chicken this way, you’ll probably need to double up the recipe and make sure you have a pot that can accommodate it, and cooking time will probably have to be increased too.
Ang Moh’s Tau Yew Kay Recipe
Serves 4, or 3 Malaysians
1kg chicken thighs/drumsticks/legs (I prefer with the skin removed, but never boneless!)
100ml Shaoshing rice wine (cooking sherry will do)
150ml light soya sauce
100ml dark soya sauce
1 litre water
3 spring onions, cut into 1 inch lengths and smashed
1/2 tbsp ginger paste
2 star anise
Get a decent sized pot that can hold the chicken and the liquid, and heat it to a medium heat. Add in a tablespoon or so of oil, and add the ginger paste, and fry it for a minute or so until some caramelisation can be seen. Now add the smashed spring onion and the star anise and continue to fry for a minute or so. Next add in the Shaoshing wine and let it boil for a few minutes in order to burn off some of the alcohol. You may wish to switch on an extractor fan or open a window while doing this – the first time I made this dish I used too much rice wine and my wife accused me of stinking out the apartment.
When the mixture has been bubbling away for a while, add in the soy sauces, sugar and water and crank up the heat to bring the whole lot to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat, put a lid on the pot and simmer the liquid for about 15 minutes. After it’s had a good simmer, add in your chicken pieces and bring the lot back up to a boil. Once it’s reached boiling point, stick the lid back on and simmer now for 20 – 30 minutes, making sure to stir every so often.
After this time the chicken should be ready to eat, but I prefer to let it sit for an hour or so and heat it back up when we’re ready to eat. I find the flavour profile improves this way. Whenever you want to eat it, serve with steamed rice and some green vegetables, and make sure to ladle some of the remaining cooking liquid over the rice and chicken. This cooking liquid can be sieved and frozen for later use, or you can use it as a condiment on its own, as it should be very flavoursome.
Enjoy your makan!