Hainan: Wenchang Ji

Restaurant: Saigon Seafood Harbor Restaurant
City: Newark, CA

I had dinner with my family and a family friend at a Cantonese restaurant near home. One of the dishes we ordered was the famous chicken dish from Hainan.

You may know it as “Hainan Chicken Rice”, where the chicken is served with rice. However, the original name of the chicken dish itself sans rice is “Wenchang Ji” which literally means Wenchang chicken. Wenchang is a city in the northeast part of Hainan, China, where this chicken dish is from.

The yellow chicken is always served with a ginger scallion sauce, which is the highlight of the dish. The chicken must be eaten with the sauce.

Peanuts were served on our dish, as shown below, perhaps as Saigon Seafood Harbor’s way of elevating the dish.

hainan chicken2014-07-05 20.35.17

Hainan Tourism Development Commission explains how this dish is made:

Wenchang chicken is one of Hainan’s four specialties, and may be the most well known of them all. Not only popular in Hainan, has it also become a signature dish in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, due to the nostalgia for their home of the Hainanese diaspora. The chickens are generally free range chickens. Wenchang chicken is normally boiled and then cut into pieces. It is then eaten by dipping the pieces in a mixture of spices including chopped ginger, garlic, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, and freshly squeezed citrus. The skin of Wenchang chicken is typically yellow, with an oily appearance, and the inner meat and bones are often red and raw looking, although in recent years the dish has been more thouroughly cooked due to bird flu fears.

Can you tell which ingredient makes the chicken yellow? It’s the ginger!

Here’s more info about the dish, from Wikipedia:

Wenchang chicken (simplified Chinese: 文昌鸡; traditional Chinese: 文昌雞; pinyin: Wénchāng Jī), is a type of chicken and a chicken dish from the Wenchang city area in Hainan, China.

This variety of small, fleshy free-range chicken is fed coconut and peanut bran. During the last two months before going to market, they are kept in coops above the ground.

Wenchang chicken is known throughout the province of Hainan. The most traditional way to prepare Wenchang Chicken is “white cutting” (Chinese : 白切), which involves immersing the chicken in almost boiling hot water and cooked to preserve its softness and tenderness. It is then eaten by dipping the pieces in a mixture of spices including chopped ginger and salt. The skin of Wenchang chicken is typically yellow, with an oily appearance, although the meat is somewhat drier and has more texture than battery chickens. This dish is also popular in mainland China, in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other Southeast Asian countries.

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