We weren’t being witty or anything with the word “drool-worthy” in the title of this recipe. In fact, the Chinese name of this chicken dish is “kou shui ji” which literally translates to “saliva chicken.”
Okay so to an English speaker looking at a menu here in China and seeing that very Chinglish-y menu translation, they might want to turn and run. After all, this is a cuisine in which bird spit (read: bird’s nest soup) is a much sought-after ingredient.
But not to worry. The dish’s name can be better translated as “mouthwatering” chicken. I read somewhere that some famous person took one look at this dish and hungrily made the claim, “it’s making me drool,” and that’s how this kou shui ji – saliva chicken dish got its new name and fame.
Funny how we name our food, Use some fine Shaoxing wine as the main flavoring ingredient and you have Drunken Chicken. It’s quite delicious by the way!
I’ve eaten many versions of kou shui ji, and most of time the chicken is swimming in a hot & spicy tongue-numbing oil, requiring an experienced Sichuan-food-lover to go near it (it’s delicious, by the way).
But that said, we made our version of drool-worthy chicken less spicy while still being loaded with all the essential flavors of the original version. Ours also uses sesame paste, which isn’t always a mandatory ingredient, but really adds richness.
Kou Shui Ji – Step 1:
Put chopped peanuts, roasted sesame seeds, red chili flakes or chopped dried red chilis, and salt into a medium bowl and set it aside.
Heat your oil in a skillet or pan over low heat, and add the scallions, ginger, garlic, star anise, cinnamon stick, and Sichuan peppercorns.
Allow these aromatics to slowly infuse into the oil, until everything is kind of browned and wrinkly and fragrant.
Discard the spices and pour the hot infused oil into the peanut mixture.
Give everything a stir and cover the bowl with a plate to seal everything inside. Walk away and don’t come back until everything else is ready!
Kou Shui Ji – Step 2:
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil (there should be enough water to submerge the chicken) along with the ginger and scallions. Once it’s boiling, add the chicken (once it’s added the water will probably stop boiling because of the temperature change).
Bring the water to a boil again, and after a minute, cover the pot and immediately turn off the heat. Let it sit on the stove for 20 minutes to slowly poach the chicken. In the meantime, prepare a small ice bath for chicken. After 20 minutes, take the chicken out of the pot and plunge it in the ice bath and let the chicken cool completely. Slice the chicken and place it on your serving plate.
Kou Shui Ji – Step 3:
Mix all of the Step 3 ingredients in a bowl (sesame paste, light soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, garlic, and chicken stock).
Now combine the mixture you just made with the peanut mixture you made in Step 1. Pour as much as you want over the chicken.
This chicken is cooked in the same way as traditional Cantonese Poached Chicken – bai qie ji.
We put about 2/3 of the mixture over the chicken and used the rest for a cold noodle lunch the next day (a highly recommended action!).
We also added an extra stream of hot chili oil because we like the heat.
You can also sprinkle your kou shui ji dish with some extra chopped cilantro, scallion, peanuts, and toasted sesame seeds!
(We also added chopped fresh red chilies, because like I said…we LOVE spicy food).
…And a little extra sauce never hurt anyone.
If you want to enjoy this as the Chinese do, serve it cold as an appetizer before the meal!
This chicken kou shui ji dish is a little bit adventurous for first-timers, but one of our favorite things to order when we go out to eat at a Sichuan restaurant.
And it’s usually good for next-day noodles with all that leftover sauce!