This dish was really a ‘love it or hate it’ dish during our childhood. Technically, it is a dish more commonly eaten during a lady’s confinement period because the motherwort herb is said to improve circulation. But it has become so common in pot lucks and food drives that people just find any occasion to make it. I think this dish originated from the Khek dialect or the Teochew people…not sure which…but you can get the dried kachangma herbs in most markets. Most of the time, it is simply packaged like so (below). It is not that expensive either. This is certainly not the dish that makes me jump for joy but I’ll eat it for confinement if I have to. I don’t know if they have this in KL but I suggest you can try your local Chinese traditional medicine stores.
Chinese motherwort before they are dried (below);
For this family recipe, I actually had the privilege to step back and just take photos of everything while mom does most of the cooking. She acquired two types of Chinese homemade wine for this dish. Her reason being if it’s homemade it’s more fragrant and you don’t need to add water. I asked her what is the name of the pinkish wine, she simply said it’s ‘tien chiu‘ (sweet wine, I suspect it’s like rose wine). It has a sweeter taste while the white one is more bitter.
I asked her too if the white wine is similar to Shaoxing rice wine, she said Shaoxing is different, Shaoxing is more for seasoning rather than making a dish that relies quite heavily on wine taste. So, I suggest for home cooks to visit your local Chinese traditional medicine stores and enquire whether they have the homemade white rice wine version. You don’t have to add the ‘tien chiu’ if you can’t get your hands on them. If you can’t get either at all, then I suppose the next best substitute would be ginger wine. My family’s perception of this dish is that you have to still taste the wine and not cook all the alcohol away because it helps you to sleep better (because you’re tipsy and all). But I know this is not everyone’s cup of tea so the cooking preference I leave it to you.
In case you’re wondering what this is suppose to taste like; it’s bitter from the herbs but with sweet chicken essence and the fragrance of ginger while the soup will hit you in the face first with the wine and then slowly warm you to your toes.
Chicken cut up to pieces
A packet of dried kachangma herbs
Ginger, about 5 inches long
1/4 cup Chinese rose wine (optional)
1/2 cup White rice wine
1. Prep the ginger and the herbs first.
2. Pound the ginger in a pestle and mortar till it breaks apart and is fibrous.
3. In a dry frying pan without any oil, ‘cook’ the herbs so that they becomes drier and to get rid of any moisture. In a miller, process the dried ‘cooked’ herbs till they become very fine. This step is optional but our family don’t really like big pieces of the herbs getting stuck between our teeth.
4. Cook the ginger first in a little sesame oil till its fragrant. Add the herbs and toss them together.
5. Next add the chicken pieces and stir till it’s covered with the herbs and ginger.
6. Add both the rose and white wine. Pour in chicken stock till half-covered.
7. Let it simmer till chicken is cooked. Season with salt and pepper. My mother likes to keep the strong taste of the wine, therefore she only simmers it for about 20 mins. If you dislike that strong wine taste, simmer it for 30 – 45 mins or add more chicken stock.
Enjoy with white rice!
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