Chinese Master Stock. Soy Poached Chicken with Soba Noodles and Greens

My family loves chicken soup. In all its many guises. Chicken Noodle Soup, Chicken Soup with Wontons, Tofu and Bok Choy, Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup, Chicken and Leek Soup, the list goes on and on. It’s fair to say that there is always home-made chicken stock on the stove, in the fridge or even the freezer at our house. It might be white or brown chicken stock or even my version of Chinese Soy Master Stock.

Years ago we were hooked on Masterchef. Remember Alvin Quah’s Drunken Chicken with Bruised Salad for the Seven Deadly Sins challenge? We were salivating. So the very next day I downloaded the recipe and cooked the chicken for dinner that night. I absolutely loved it but my family baulked at the litre of shaoxing (Chinese rice wine) used in the recipe. They said they found it overpowering. But the chicken was so tender and delicious. Almost silken in texture. There was no way I was going to give up this method of cooking.

If you google Chinese Master Stock pages and pages of recipes pop up on-screen. Originally the stock would have been kept simmering on a wood stove for years and replenished again and again.  The base of the Master Stock is made from typical Chinese ingredients; water, soy sauce sugar and rice wine to which a variety of spices and flavourings are added, such as spring onions, shallots, star anise, cassia bark, citrus peel, peppercorns, garlic, ginger and dried mushrooms.

Here’s my version of Master Stock without the shaoxing and using ingredients which are usually available in my fridge and pantry. Of course the Master Stock is a little bit different each time I make it depending on what is on hand at the time. There are no hard and fast rules. The key to a great tasting master stock is tasting as you go and adjusting the flavours accordingly. Be warned though the stock is salty. Perfect for poaching a chicken but it needs to be diluted with either chicken stock or water if you are going to turn it into a soup or sauce.

This recipe may seem like a bit of effort the first time but once  cooled, strained and refrigerated can be used again and again. I like to cook two small chickens so I can have leftovers for lunch the next day. The chicken is so moist, tender and delicious. It is excellent shredded in a salad or sandwiches.

I like to freeze my leftover master stock in 2 cup capacity Tupperware containers. This is the perfect size for poaching a chicken breast or two for a quick meal. The breasts need to be simmered in the broth for just 10 minutes, and steeped in the covered pot for another 20 minutes. Once defrosted, I always replenish the stock with fresh garlic, ginger, shallots and aromatics as I bring it to a simmer.

Soy Poached Chicken with Soba Noodles and Greens

For the Soy Master Stock

2 Free range chickens weighing about 1.2 kg each
10 cups water
1 cup light soy sauce
1 cup dark soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin
3 stalks celery, cut into 5cm lengths
1/2 bunch fresh coriander, roots, stems and leaves
2 leeks cut in half lengthwise
strips of orange zest from 1 small orange or mandarin
2 tablespoons grated palm sugar
2 thumb sized pieces of ginger,sliced thinly
6 green shallots trimmed, cut into 5cm lengths
3 garlic cloves, bruised
1 long green chilli, whole
10 peppercorns
4 star anise
1 cinnamon quill

USE a large pot that is big enough to submerge 2 whole chickens.
POUR 10 cups of water into the pot. Add all of the listed ingredients. Bring to the boil on medium heat.
REDUCE heat and simmer stock for around 15 minutes, skimming off any impurities.
CAREFULLY drop the whole chickens, breast side down into the pot, topping up with water if necessary to ensure the chickens are fully submerged.
BRING to the boil on medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.
REMOVE pot from heat, and cover with lid. Allow the chicken to steep in the stock for up to three hours. The chicken will be cooked in around 90 minutes.
LIFT chicken out of the master stock and chop into eight pieces. I like to do this Chinese style.
STRAIN the Master Stock. When cool refrigerate or freeze for future use.

For Soy Poached Chicken with Soba Noodles and Greens

250 g packet soba noodles
2 cups Master Stock
2 cups chicken stock
a selection of favourite green vegetables, eg snow peas, beans, spinach, bok choy, broccolini; blanched and then sliced or shredded
2 spring onions, sliced thinly
1 red chilli, sliced thinly
coriander leaves to garnish

COOK soba noodles in a separate saucepan according to the directions on the packet. This will prevent the soup from becoming cloudy.
ADD Master Stock and chicken stock to a saucepan and bring to a simmer on medium heat.  Taste the broth to ensure that it is full of flavour but not too salty. Adjust with extra spoonfuls of stock or water if required.
PLACE drained and cooked soba noodles into shallow bowls.
SHRED or cut the chicken meat into bite size chunks and place on top of noodles with green vegetables.
LADLE over the broth.
GARNISH with finely sliced spring onions, chilli and coriander leaves.

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