This is a famous Cantonese dish which is both itself colourful and has a rather colourful name: ‘golden flower and jade tree chicken’. ‘Golden Flower’ (Jinhua) is a county in Southeast China which produces about the best ham in the world. (Writing in The Compleat Imbiber No. 11, Henri Gault, one of the two authors of the Juillard gastronomic guides, remarked that after tasting Chinese ham the best Parma ham seemed to taste like card-board!) ‘Jade’ refers to the colour of the chicken and ‘tree’, of course, to the broccoli.
1 roasting chicken (3-3½lb / 1. 4-1. 6 kg)
2 spring onions
2-3 slices ginger root, unpeeled
1 tbsp salt
1 lb (450 g) broccoli (or asparagus or green cabbage)
3 tbsp oil
1 tsp sugar
1/2 lb (225 g) cooked ham (or bacon steak)
2 tsp cornflour
Place the chicken in a largepan and cover it with cold water, add the spring onions, ginger root and about 2 tablespoons salt. Bring it to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes under a tightly fitting lid. Turn off the heat and let the chicken cook itself in the hot water for at least 3-4 hours – you must not open the lid, as this would let out the residual heat – in fact it is best to place a heavy weight on top of the pan to make sure that no heat escapes.
Just before serving, take the chicken out of the pan and carefully remove the meat from the bones but keep the skin on. Then slice both the chicken meat and ham into pieces the size of a matchbox and arrange them in alternating overlapped layers on a large plate.
Meanwhile wash the broccoli in cold water and stir-fry it in hot oil with 1 teaspoon each of salt and sugar, adding a little chicken stock if required. When it is done, arrange it around the edge of the plate.
Heat up a small amount of chicken stock with cornflour, stir until smooth, then pour it over the chicken and ham so that it forms a thin coat of transparent jelly resembling jade.
© Deh-Ta Hsiung and reproduced with his kind permission.