Shandong (or Shantung) chicken is a popular Chinese restaurant dish. Despite the name, however, it is not really a dish from Shandong Province. Shandong’s Lu cuisine is often considered the most famous and influential in China, known for its refined technique and balance of tastes – salty, sweet, sour, bitter and spicy. It is also famous for its fragrant dark vinegars, and it is the balanced taste of the vinegar that gives this dish its name.
The dish itself is a combination of a fragrant sweetened vinegar sauce characteristic of Shandong’s Jinan style of cooking, with a crisp-skinned fried chicken, more common in Cantonese cooking. It was in Cantonese restaurants that this dish was popularised.
Deep-frying a whole chicken at home can be difficult (and dangerous). My version uses a roast chicken topped with the same sauce. It makes life a lot easier and tastes fantastic.
1 whole free-range chicken, about 1.6kg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 tsp grated ginger, juice only
1/4 cup black vinegar (see Tips below)
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 bird’s eye chillies
1 coriander root, stalk and root finely chopped, leaves reserved
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Rub the chicken all over with salt, inside and out, taking care to exfoliate to remove any dead skin from the chicken. Pour boiling water all over the skin of the chicken to tighten it. Combine the dark soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, ginger juice, and rub all over the chicken as well. Marinate uncovered in the fridge overnight. Alternatively, use a hairdryer to blow to skin of the chicken until it is dry and tightened.
Heat your oven to 200C. Place the chicken on a sheet of baking paper in a roasting pan and roast the chicken for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and rest for 15 minutes.
For the Shandong sauce combine all the ingredients together and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add a few spoons of the rendered chicken oil and juices from the pan. Cut the chicken into pieces and serve smothered in the Shandong sauce.
Tips for Shandong Chicken
- For a super easy version of this you can just buy a pre-roasted chicken (without stuffing), make the sauce and pour it over the top.
- The most popular Chinese black vinegar is actually Chinkiang vinegar from Jiangsu province, not Shandong. Most Shandong chicken recipes will use this vinegar, but if you can find an authentic Shandong-made vinegar it will be a little bit more interesting. You may need to adjust the proportion of sugar.
- If you do want to make a deep-fried version of this, poach the chicken first in a soy-based stock, then hang it to dry completely so it won’t spit when it’s deep frying.