The real deal | South China Morning Post
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  • Mar 3, 2015
  • Updated: 6:30am

The real deal

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 March, 2009, 12:00am

Most people think of nor mai gai as the dim sum dish of glutinous rice and chunks of chicken wrapped in lotus leaf and steamed. Real nor mai gai is a dish worthy of being served at a banquet. Preparation starts with tunnel-boning a chicken: removing all the bones without cutting into the skin. The flattened chicken is stuffed with glutinous rice, steamed, air-dried then deep fried.

Nor mai gai

This recipe makes enough nor mai fan (steamed glutinous rice) for three chickens. Set aside enough for one chicken then freeze the rest until needed.

Use a small chicken for this dish; a large one would be harder to handle and cook. Water chestnut flour gives the best crunch but cornstarch can be substituted.

Tunnel-boning the chicken is more difficult to describe than it is to do. When you're done, the only bones left will be the drumette part of the wing (you'll cut off the other two wing joints) and the tip of the drumstick.

1 small chicken, about 1kg

Soy sauce, as needed

Water chestnut flour or cornstarch, for dredging

Oil, for frying

For the nor mai fan:

720 grams glutinous rice

400 grams long-grain rice

1 tsp fine-grained sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling

30 grams dried mushrooms

30 grams dried shrimp

4 laap cheong (Chinese air-dried sausages)

250 grams char siu

Wash the glutinous and long-grain rice until the water runs clear. Mix in the salt, add enough water to cover by 2cm and soak for at least eight hours. Put the rice in a rice cooker or a large pan with a tight fitting lid. Add water to cover by 1cm and steam the rice until tender (if using a pan, bring the water to the boil, put the lid on, lower the heat and cook over a very low flame). Taste the rice periodically and add more water if needed.

While the rice is cooking, rinse the mushrooms and dried shrimp, place in a bowl and add warm water to cover. Soak for about 30 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft. Drain, then squeeze as much water as possible from the mushrooms. Remove and discard the stems then dice the caps. Steam the laap cheong for 10 minutes, then dice. Dice the char siu. When the rice is cooked, mix in the mushrooms, shrimp, laap cheong and char siu. Spread on a lightly oiled baking tray and cool to room temperature.

To tunnel-bone the chicken, cut off the tip and middle joint of both wings. Place the bird on the cutting board with the neck-side up. Feel around in the cavity for the wishbone then use a paring knife to scrape the flesh from it. Snap it from the carcass at the base of the 'V' and pull it out of the cavity. Grasp the wing and wiggle it around to feel where the drumette bone meets the shoulder, then use a knife to cut between the joint. Repeat on the other side.

Scrape away the flesh from the collarbone and shoulder bones on one side of the carcass. Break the bone at the point where it meets the carcass, hook your finger into the joint where the collar and shoulder bones meet at a 'V' and pull the bones from the cavity. Repeat on the other side. Put the bird, breast-side up, on the cutting board. Carefully scrape away the flesh from the breast as close to the carcass as possible. Take care where the two sides of the breast meet because the flesh is very thin. When you get about halfway down, snap the breastbone in two and pull out the top half. Start working on the back part of the carcass, again, scraping away the flesh as close to the bone as possible (the flesh is very thin along the backbone). When you get halfway down the back, snap it in two between the vertebrae and pull out that part of the backbone. Continue working on the breast side until you're able to pull out the remainder of the breastbone, then finish with the back. When you come to the point where the back meets the thigh, carefully cut between the joint. Cut off the backbone at the tail (leave the tail intact) then pull out the last of the backbone. The chicken will be inside-out at this point. Scrape away the flesh from the thigh bone until you reach the drumstick, cut between the joint and remove the thighbone. Cut the tendons at the top of the drumstick and scrape the flesh down the length of the bone until you reach the tip. The drumstick will be turned inside out. Use a sharp, heavy knife to break the drumstick bone as close to the tip as possible and remove it. Sprinkle salt evenly over the interior flesh. Turn the bird right-side out and sprinkle salt over the skin.

Stuff the chicken with the glutinous rice, pushing it well into the drumstick and thigh parts. Within the cavity, the layer of rice should be about 3cm thick. Use toothpicks or skewers to 'sew' up the openings at the neck and tail. Place the bird, breast-side up on a rack with low feet - small enough to fit in a wok. Pour water into the wok and bring to the boil; the level should be low enough so the water won't touch the bird. When the water boils, place the chicken (on the rack) in the wok, cover and steam for 15 minutes. Remove the bird (still on the rack) and cool for 15 minutes. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least an hour, until the skin is taut and dry.

Heat a deep skillet over a medium flame and add oil to a depth of 2cm. Brush the entire exterior of the bird with soy sauce then dredge with water chestnut flour or cornstarch. When the oil reaches 170 degrees Celsius, carefully lower the chicken into the skillet. As the chicken fries, constantly ladle hot oil over the top. Turn it over and fry the other side, again, ladling hot oil over the top. Fry for about eight minutes in total. Remove the bird from the skillet and heat the oil to 190 degrees. Briefly fry the bird on both sides, ladling oil over the top (the first frying is to heat the bird, the second is to crisp up the skin). Drain on paper towels. Slice in half lengthwise before cutting into large pieces.

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