Let’s finish up the trifecta of chicken stews with da pan ji, aka big plate chicken. If you have never had this dish, I pity you. It’s one of the all-time greats and I recommend you order it next time you see it.
When we were in Xian we found this restaurant that served two sizes of da pan ji, huge and hudger. Even the “small” size was too much for two people and we were definitely not the only ones that wasted much of their dish. It saddened me to see such profligacy of one of the most amazing plates of food. The potatoes were nearly buttery and the chicken was chunks of perfect bone-in dark meat all bathed in a spicy, deeply flavored broth and some delicious hand-pulled noodles. We went back again a few days later in the only repeat restaurant visit of our two weeks in China. It was definitely the best thing we ate and we ate a lot of very good food.
Now I don’t claim to be able to top the version we had. If nothing else I am fairly sure a large part of our dish was deep fried as that is the only way they could get the silky texture in the food and get it out to us so quickly. This version is more stew-like and less a brothy stir- fry. I hope it ends up good. Also I struggled with how much tomato/carrots to add, so in this version I am just going to add a dollop of tomato paste and omit carrots.
2-3 lbs of chicken thighs, drumstick or leg quarters
1 onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 in of ginger, thinly sliced
2 tbsp of sichuan doubanjiang
2-4 tbsp of tomato paste
3-4 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
2 black cardamom (cao guo)
1 tbsp of cumin, ground
1 tsp of white pepper, ground
1 tsp of black pepper, ground
1 tbsp of Korean or Sichuan red pepper flakes (mostly for color)
1 tbsp of Sichuan peppercorns, whole or ground (adjust this to taste)
1/2 tsp of ground ginger
1/2 tsp of garlic powder
10-12 mild dried red chiles (something like an Arbol will work), deseeded if preferred
2 bay leaves
1/4 c of Shaoxing wine
1 tbsp of brown sugar
3 c of chicken stock or replace some with beer
2 tbsp of dark soy sauce
2 tbsp of light soy, plus more for seasoning
1 to 1.5 lbs of potatoes (any type you prefer), peeled and cut into large chunks
1 red pepper, 1 green pepper, 2-3 jalapenos deseeded and chopped
6 spring onions, whites cut into 1 inch piece and greens thinly sliced and reserved for garnish
1 tbsp of black rice vinegar
Preheat oven to 325 F.
On medium high heat, brown chicken skin side of all chicken, adding oil as needed, and in as many batches as needed. About 6-7 minutes. Remove to a cutting board and, for true authenticity, cleave into small bone-in chunks.
Saute onion, garlic and ginger until lightly browned. Add doubanjiang, tomato paste and whole spices and saute until tomato paste is browned and oil is red. Then add ground spices, dried chiles and bay leaves and stir constantly for about 30 seconds. Splash in the wine and scrape up any browned bits.
Now add chicken stock, sugar and soy sauces and bring to a simmer. Add potatoes and then transfer to the oven partially covered. Braise for 15 minutes. Add chicken thighs and braise for about 30 minutes. Then add peppers and spring onion whites and return to oven for another 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and season with vinegar, additional light soy sauce and pepper. Serve over flat wide wheat noodles or rice.