Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Oriental Culinary Institute, Featuring Ken Hom - and a Recipe for Whole Stuffed Chicken

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to a one-off masterclass with the legendary Ken Hom - KEN HOM! He was at the School of Wok to launch their Oriental Culinary Institute. The School of Wok, under Chef Jeremy Pang, has been offering classes such as how to make sushi, dim sum, Thai cookery and knife skills, and now the Oriental Culinary Institute offers more in-depth courses, ranging from bronze to gold, three to fifteen weeks, culminating in recognised qualifications.

Ken Hom is a bit of a hero of mine (see my excited face?). He brought the wok to the Western world, selling over 7 million world wide and he was pivotal in introducing Chinese cuisine to Britain in the 80s, with a BBC TV show. I was enraptured with 'Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure' from 2012 (and more than a little jealous - my dream trip), especially lesser known regions, like the Silk Road and Kashgar. In real life, he was charming and humble, good-humoured and basically just as he comes across on TV. 

We started off under the watchful eye of Jeremy, peeling and chopping ginger, garlic, spring onions and peppers for the dishes we would prepare later. We were taught chopping techniques and the value of a cleaver, and how to use them safely - I obviously wasn't concentrating as I proceeded to take a V section out of my fingernail. Oops. 

Next, Ken showed us how to de-skin a whole chicken, while keeping the skin intact for the next stage. Careful work and patience were the key points, while he cajoled the chicken out of its skin. The body was put aside for another use - Ken stressed the importance of cutting down on food wastage - and the skin was then stuffed carefully with glutinous rice and a mixture of seasonings, and sewn back up. For us to attempt our own would have taken years, so instead we were given chicken legs to de-skin and stuff. 

The chicken was taken away to be steamed, and then it had to be deep-fried. The video shows Ken carefully spooning hot oil over the chicken (glass of wine to the side, obvs) until it was crisp and golden. 

And then we sat down to eat. There they are, the chicken legs we stuffed. When you cut into them they're bursting with sticky rice, flecked with Chinese sausage and mushroom, scented with the chicken fat. 

Along with a tangy lotus root salad, the whole chicken Ken cooked was also shared out among us. Ken ate with us, drank with us and told us that he was stealing Chef Jeremy away to teach his team at his restaurant in Rio de Janeiro how to make dim sum, returning him in time to kick off the Culinary Institute. I wonder if I can stow away in his suitcase...

Whole Stuffed Chicken Skin by Ken Hom (reproduced with permission)

Serves 6 - 8

1 serving of Savoury Glutinous Rice filling (see below)
1 large free-range chicken (1.8 - 2kg)
1.4 litres of groundnut or vegetable oil

To skin the chicken: 

1. With your fingers, begin loosening the skin starting from the neck end. Work until you have reached the end and gently begin to separate the skin where it is attached to the breast area.
2. Find the joint where the wing is attached to the body and with poultry shears cut it from the body, but leaving the wing intact. Repeat with other wing.
3. With a small, sharp knife starting at the back of the neck, cut the skin, always with your edge towards the bone. Each time gently pull the skin back. 
4. As the skin begins to loosen, pull it gently over the chicken so that it turns inside out. 
5. Continue to cut against the bone and gently pull the skin from the back. 
6. Using poultry shears, remove the tail from the chicken but leaving it attached to the rest of the skin. 
7. Very gently pull the skin over the thighs and the legs, using a small, sharp knife to scrape the fibres attaching the leg to free the skin. 
8. Cut the final end joint of the leg and leave it intact with the skin. Do the same with the other side and leg. 
9. Turn the skin the right side out and you should have an intact complete chicken skin.

To Stuff: 

1. Skewer the neck end and gently stuff the cold rice stuffing through the tail end.
2. Continue to push the stuffing to 're-form' the chicken. Do not over stuff - it should be loose-ish. Skewer the tail carefully and place on a heat proof plate.
3. Set up a steamer of a rack in your wok and fill with 5cm of water. Bring the water to the boil over a high heat. 
4. Place the chicken on the plate in the steamer. Turn the heat to low, cover, and steam for 1 hour gently. Be sure to replenish the water from time to time. 
5. When done, pour off all the fat and liquid. Allow the chicken to cool thoroughly, then refridgerate loosely wrapped in cling film. 

When ready to serve: Heat a large wok with oil until hot. Carefully lower the chicken with a large strainer, breast side up. Baste the chicken with the hot oil until it is very brown and crisp. Remove and drain on kitchen paper, and it is now ready to serve. 

Savoury Glutinous Rice Stuffing 

350gr glutinous rice, soaked overnight inwater
450gr fatty minced pork
2 tbsb groundnut or vegetable oil
50gr rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, minced
4 Chinese pork sausages, coarsely chopped
100gr Parma or English ham, coarsely chopped
75gr barbecued roast pork or cooked ham, coarsely chopped
3 tbsp spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 tbsp light soy sauce
400ml chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp light soy sauce
1.5 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 tbsp spring onions, finely chopped
2 tsp ginger, finely chopped

1. Drain the glutinous rice in a colander. 
2. Combine the pork with the marinade. Let it sit for 20 minutes.
3. Heat the work until it is hot, then add the oil. When it is smoking, stir-fry the pork for 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms, sausages, ham and barbecued pork, spring onions and stir-fry for 10 minutes
4. Add the drained rice, rice wine, soy sauce and stock. Mix well, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and is completely cooked. Allow to cool thoroughly. 

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