Friday, July 3, 2009

Kai Zhao (Chicken Wine)

It wasn't so long ago that I ate this almost every other day. This aromatic chicken dish - steeped in sesame oil, alcohol and plenty of ginger - is a typical staple for Asian women who have just given birth. In this part of the world, it falls under the category of "confinement food".

I suppose people unfamiliar with Asian postpartum practices would find this very interesting. Confinement?! Well, yes ... for a new mother, the trauma of birth (to the body) means that she is especially vulnerable to the elements. It is believed that her body is "yin" and needs lots of nourishing, "warming" food. She is advised to stay indoors (hence the term "confinement") for a period of at least 30 days, for recuperation. During this time, she must eat a special diet too.

This dish - Kai Zhao (literally translated to Chicken Wine) - is my favourite confinement food. I always add cognac to it, which lends a heavenly fragrance and taste to the gravy. You do not need to be a new mother to enjoy this ;) The best part of this dish for me is that rich, flavourful, soupy gravy. Now, THAT is liquid gold.

- 1 chicken, chopped into parts
- old ginger, sliced thinly (as much as you like)
- garlic, minced
- sesame oil
- rock sugar
- light soy sauce
- dark soy sauce
- water, about 1 soup bowl
- alcohol (cognac, DOM and Wincarnis are commonly used), about 3/4 rice bowl
* Note that you can adjust the proportions of the seasoning/alcohol according to your taste preferences.

1. In a skillet, heat sesame oil (in place of regular vegetable oil).

2. Add garlic and ginger and fry till fragrant. I load up on these!

3. Add chicken and stirfry till semi-cooked.

4. Add water, light soy, dark soy and alcohol. If you prefer a thicker gravy, add less water. You can add more alcohol if you like a stronger taste. Cover skillet, let chicken simmer until the flavours are infused and the alcohol has evaporated.

5. After a while, the gravy will thicken and darken.

6. Just before turning off the flame, add in the lump of rock sugar. Simmer for another 1 or 2 mins, then turn off the fire. I added spring onions today because I had some to finish off, but they are optional.

7. Serve immediately.


  1. This looks delicious - I love braised chicken and these flavors sound perfect. Definitely giving this a try!

  2. What a fascinating look into Asian postpartum rituals. Pregnancy (and the toll it takes on the body) does require special care. Your dish looks like just the thing to me!

    Anyway, I found you on TasteSpotting and am writing to say that if you have any photos that aren’t accepted there, I’d love to publish them. Visit my new site (below), it’s a lot of fun! I hope you will consider it.


  3. Donalyn: Hey there! Thanks for dropping by. Hope you try it and let me know how it goes. Love your pics!

    Casey: Thanks. Hope you try it too :)

  4. Argh.......Kai Zhou! I love it. Haven't had this dish for a long time.

  5. My mom tried to tell me to stay at home for 30 days after giving birth.

    I got too antsy after 48 hours.

    And went shopping.

  6. Ellie: Me too! One of my fave dishes.

    Jaden: You are too funny!! Seriously, I couldn't even walk about upright, let alone shop.

  7. This dish.. I remember when my sister was on confinement, she had a lot of this. I think this dish is so so sooo good because of the ginger and sesame oil!! yum!

  8. mycookinghut: Yes, you're right. The smell is amazing when it's being cooked.

  9. Awesome recipe am currently cooking it right now and so far smells great!

  10. Looks fantastic! I can't wait to try it.

  11. I just tried cooking my chicken wings with your recipe and it rocks. Absolutely love the taste! Thanks for sharing!