Friday, 23 September 2011

Sandy Lam does Drunken Chicken!

I first met Sandy in 2003. We were collaborating on a publishing project, one that brought us to Shanghai, Malaysia, and to Hong Kong before and after the SARS epidemic.

Before I worked with her, I had known Sandy as a pop singer. At the time we met, I actually owned a CD of hers that is still with me today -- Wild Flower. I liked its East/West and Retro/Modern arrangement and treatment, which resonated with my state of mind at the time. That aside, I wasn’t very familiar with her work. However, by the time of the completion of the project, which became her first published cookbook My Shanghai, we had become friends.

Sandy was a thoughtful, considerate friend; and often surprised people with the fastidious attention she paid to them. I remember clearly an incident. She was flying from Hong Kong to Shanghai to meet me. She had brought with her a box of meat pies from a particular shop in HK that she knew I loved. When we met, she happily handed the box, which she had personally hand-carried on the plane, to me. However, in the tumult of meetings and other distractions that followed, I forgot about the meat pies completely. Unbeknownst to me, the pies had been passed around to feed the other people who were there that day. The following morning, Sandy’s manager confided to me that the singer had actually observed that I had given the pies a miss. She was an attentive friend, indeed!

We were even caught in a local paparazzi newspaper with her
If our paths crossed later in different cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, or Taiwan, Sandy would take me, and often my partner too, out for a meal. Sandy and I loved to eat and cook. If we were in Hong Kong, she would cook for us at her home. Being of Shanghainese birth, Shanghainese food was, of course, a forte of hers. It was at times like this that one would see the private, even domestic, side of the superstar. At other times, one would see the consummate musical professional.

Sandy was someone who had always known what she wanted, what worked for her, and the importance of following her own convictions. She never rested on her laurels, and always sought ways to grow as an artist. From language and painting classes to -- would you believe it? -- vocal lessons; in each album, music video and concert; she  would push the envelope and challenge herself. For that, I admired her.

And now, with a couple of singles just released and a concert this evening, I’m going to cook a recipe of hers that we have often enjoyed and loved. But, I’m giving it a tweak of my own!

Drunken Chicken

Chicken                      1
Water                         2½  litres
Spring onion             2
Ginger                        5 slices
Coriander                   1 sprig, including root
Salt                             1 tbsp

Chicken stock           1 litre
Bay leaves                 2
Rock sugar                100 g
Hua Tiao wine           ½ litre
Salt                            4 tbsp
Dried osmanthus      20 g

  1. Boil water with spring onion, ginger and coriander. Hold the chicken by the neck and submerge it into the boiling water. Do this three times; each time, wait for the water to boil before lifting the chicken up, then lower it again when the water starts to boil again. After the third immersion, lower the chicken into the boiling water, turn off the heat, and cover the pot with a lid. Let it rest for 40 minutes.
  2. Remove the chicken and immerse the chicken into the chilled stock that has been prepared earlier. Cover it and chill in the refrigerator overnight.
  3. Before serving, remove the chicken from the broth and drain till completely dry.
  4. Chop chicken into bite-sized pieces. Pour a spoonful of the liquid over the chicken and serve.

1.   Boil chicken stock, bay leaves and rock sugar. When the stock boils, remove it from the heat, add salt and dried osmanthus. When the stock cools to room temperature, add Hua Tiao wine.
2.   The stock must taste like seawater. Chill the stock overnight.