Sake Steamed Chicken with Ginger and Scallions

There is something about recipes that involve shredded chicken that draw me like a moth to a flame.  Shredded chicken = comfort food in my book, and even things that sound a little outside my general area of expertise are too tempting to give up if the words “chicken” and “shred” are part of the equation.

Which is how I recently found myself in the sake section of our local liquor store, squinting at labels and pretending like I knew one sake from another.  I finally picked one at random and brought it home, and then realized that I didn’t see the actual word “sake” anywhere on the label.  Anywhere.  Um.

This recipe sounds all exotic and all, but it basically comes down to steaming some chicken breasts in the sake until it is – I kid you not – the most tender, succulent chicken you have ever tasted in your life.  I promise I am not exaggerating in any way.  You take this completely perfect chicken, shred it (yes!!) and toss with a sauce made of ginger, soy sauce, orange juice, sherry, rice vinegar and a few other fabulous things.  Pour it over some brown rice and scatter some scallions and sesame seeds on top.  Which brings me to the other best part of this story.  The recipe calls for “sesame seeds, preferably black.”

Black sesame seeds?

So I call my mom, and it goes like this:

Me: “Hi Mom.  You don’t have any black sesame seeds by any chance, do you?”

Mom: “Of course I do.  How much do you need?”
Of course she did.
So if you (like me) get wildly excited by utterly tender shredded chicken…and have access to sesame seeds of any kind, and are not intimidated by the sake section of your liquor store, I promise that this is a recipe that will make your heart sing.

Sake Steamed Chicken with Ginger and Scallions
  • 1 3½ pound chicken, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1½ cups dry sake
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1½ teaspoons mirin or sweet sherry
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger root
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3 thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, preferably black.
  • Cooked rice
  1. Place a steamer basket in the bottom of a large stockpot. If you don't have an official steamer basket, a metal colander with work fine. Pour in equal amounts of sake and water, enough to reach the bottom of the steamer basket. Bring to a boil.
  2. Generously salt the chicken inside and out; set breast side up in the steamer basket. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Steam the chicken until the juices run clear when pierced with a knife, about 1 to 1½ hours. Turn off the heat and allow to cool for about 20 minutes.
  3. To prepare the sauce, in a small bowl whisk together the soy sauce, orange juice, rice vinegar, lemon juice, mirin, ginger and garlic.
  4. Remove the chicken from the pot and place on a large cutting board; shred into bite-sized pieces. Place some rice on each plate, and spoon the shredded chicken over the rice. Spoon some of the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds. Serve extra sauce on the side for dipping.

 Recipe adapted slightly from The New York Times


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  1. vanillasugarblog says

    girl you are fabulous.
    have i ever steamed with sake? no.
    do i want too?
    oh heavens yes.
    thank you thank you for this.

  2. JuLo says

    This sounds fantastic! I've never steamed chicken before, but I buy frier chickens like every other week. Definitely trying this after Thanksgiving. :)

  3. Joanne says

    The sake section is totally a scary place. I'm convinced there are ninjas back there waiting for you to make a wrong choice.

    Obviously, you made the right one since you lived to tell the tale. This looks awesome!

  4. Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger) says

    what a great technique. That totally looks like sake to me (not that I'm expert, but the bottle I have at home looks a lot like that one!).

  5. Aki says

    Hi, I'm new to viewing your blog but I can help you with the sake part on your bottle! It's on there but it's in Japan and not translated into English on the bottle. The top little sticker with the single Chinese character? 酒 = sake! And this recipe looks delicious, I could actually make that here in Japan!

  6. FramedCooks says

    Thanks everyone – I know you will love it, it's the most tender chicken I've EVER made. And Aki, thank you so much for the translation…phew! :)

  7. tygerburningbright says

    That is Miya no Yuki as it says on the label: a famous brand of sake from Mie prefecture Japan. In fact it is my favorite sake. The one there in the photo is not the highest grade as it is only a "Junmai" quality but still good probably better for cooking given that it is lower grade their (the same company's higher quality aka "Ginzo Junmai"). In my experience if you are in america and you can get your hands on sake that does not say "sake" in English on it you are buying a much better quality sake.
    Joanne –
    "The sake section is totally a scary place. I'm convinced there are ninjas back there waiting for you to make a wrong choice."
    That's racist! wtf? really ninjas? not funny.


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