A Legacy of Chicken


 My mother discovered Chinatown when I was about 10.  We hadn’t been in Sydney very long at that point, and Chinatown was the most amazing place to a little girl from Bloomington Indiana.  I loved going there.  My mom and I would wander around the stores jam packed full of food and dishes and clothes and toys – all of it completely different from anything we’d even seen before.  The supermarkets were the best: small and cramped, but stacked high with all sorts of new and interesting foods to try.   Sometimes as we would gaze wonderingly at some unknown ingredient, a shopkeeper would come up to us and give us an on-the-spot lesson in how to cook with whatever we were looking at. Thus began a long tradition of Chinese-inspired and wok cooked meals. I still have the first wok that she bought back then.

This was around the same time that she gave up eating red meat; the first stage in a series of dietary shifts that I refer to as the little ‘b’ bohemian phase of our family food tradition.  The main meat that we ate then was chicken.  Most meals were vegetarian, and sometimes we would have fish, but chicken featured often. We had quite a repertoire of chicken meals, but much of the time we would just stir fry chicken and vegetables.

This recipe was my Mom’s favourite way to cook chicken because it is delicious and so easy.  Everyone who knew her has had this chicken – she made it a lot.  I haven’t cooked this recipe in many years.  I couldn’t – who would have thought the memories brought by a recipe could evoke such strong emotions?  I must admit that I shed a tear when I made it.  I cooked it in the matching pot that she gave me, as she did, and served it with a huge green salad.

A real walk down memory lane and an important reminder that there are far more imporant legacies than houses and money!


  • 1 chicken (1.8 – 2.0 kg) I used a Coles Brand RSPCA chicken
  • 5 T water
  • 4 star anise
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 6 T light soy sauce
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 t grated fresh ginger
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 t 5 spice powder

Pour water into a large roasting pot and place chicken in breast side down. Spread all other ingredients over the chicken.

Place uncovered in oven at 100C.  Cook for 3 hours, basting every30-40 minutes. Turn heat up to 170C and cook until chicken is cooked. Baste frequently.  Cooked slowly and breast side down, the white meat will be tender and juicy, and won’t overcook.

Serve with stir fried vegetables or lots of fresh green salad.

About baking bohemian

My name is Jen and I am the baking bohemian. My blog identity comes from the cultural background of my mother’s family, (Bohemian), and my mother’s more left wing lifestyle (bohemian). The big ‘B’ Bohemian refers to the rich cultural heritage of our family that emigrated from Bohemia when it was still its own country (it now comprises two thirds of the Czech Republic). Food featured prominently in the family and broader social life of that part of my family. No social interaction was without sustenance, and any celebration, large or small, was an invitation to cook up a storm. My own family emigrated from the United States to Australia when I was a child. For the most part we lived with our mother, and my dad eventually moved back to the US. The little ‘b’ bohemian relates to the semi-alternative lifestyle we led with our mother. I hesitate to refer to her as a hippy, for that conjures up so many misconceptions, but certainly she was on that side of the fence. She was probably more eccentric than radical at the end of the day, but she could really cook. We always set extra plates at the dinner table because inevitably people would visit at dinner time. I started cooking when I was about eight. Cookies. Obviously I was motivated by desire! I loved cooking, I loved that the kitchen was always, in every way, the heart of the house, so I was always part of anything else that was happening while I was cooking. I loved people loving my food. With all the different things that I have done in my life and am interested in, food has remained my most consistent and enduring passion.

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