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.