Sake-steamed “Sakamushi” chicken breast with scallion sauce 鶏胸肉の酒蒸し葱ソース

japanese cake
This is another simple dish but it is a perfect drinking snack. A Japanese cooking technique called “Sakamushi” 酒蒸し simply means “steamed in sake”. There are some variations on how to do sakamushi. You could do this using a combination of poaching/steaming or purely steaming depending on the situation or the type of food items you are cooking. This technique is used mostly for fish (including shell fish) or chicken. I bought 4 split chicken breasts with bone in and skin attached. I was too lazy to debone the chicken before cooking (one of these weekday evenings). So I decided to do sakamushi using bone-in and skin-on breasts.

Chicken: I just washed and dried the chicken breasts with a paper towel. I salted it with Kosher salt (rather generously). You can be generous since much of the salt will dissolve and drip down into the steaming liquid.

Steaming: In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, I placed a metal basket steamer and poured a sake and water mixture (a 1:1 ratio) to just below the bottom of the basket. When it started boiling/steaming, I turned it down to a simmer and placed the chicken breast in the steamer basket with the lid on tight. I let it steam for 20 minutes or so or until the juice ran clear when pierced in the thickest portion. It is important to let the chicken cool to room temperature before slicing. It tastes best just as it comes to room temperature but it is also fine cold the next day or two stored in the refrigerator. You should finish it within a week, though.

Sauce: This time I served this with a type scallion sauce or “negi sosu” 葱ソース (my own, just made on a whim). It is a mixture of chopped scallion (as much as you like), ponzu shoyu sauce (from the bottle), splash of dark sesame oil and Tabasco (as much as you like). I also added a chiffonade of perilla since I had it.

Assembly: I just removed the bones by hand and sliced the chicken with the skin on (if you do not like the skin or do not want to take in fat from the skin, remove the skin). I placed the chicken on a bed of thinly sliced and lightly salted cucumber (mini cucumber). I just topped it with the scallion sauce. I was afraid that I might have been a bit too liberal with the Tabasco but it was just the right amount of spiciness for us. Especially if you remove the skin, this is a very low fat drinking snack.

You could serve the sakamushi chicken many different ways. You could use this chicken for salad, sandwich etc. You could steam an entire chicken if you wish (steaming a whole chicken is not really a Japanese way of cooking, though) but you need a large and deep stock pot for that. Another method I used to use often is a Chinese style poaching technique similar to one used in Hainanese chicken and rice. You boil a pot full of water (sans the volume of the chicken you are planning to put in, but the pot must be large enough for the chicken to completely submerge and the water volume has to be sufficient to hold the heat). You dunk the whole chicken for 30 seconds in boiling water and take it out (supposedly this initial dunk makes the skin taut and less porous to keep the moisture in) and wait until the water comes to a boil again, then, put the chichen back in, shut off the heat and cover with a tight lid. Let it poach for 1 hour or longer without any additional heat until it is done. This technique produced a really tender succulent chicken but it is a big production (I think I got this recipe from Frugal Gourmet).

In any case, poaching or steaming a chicken is not popular in the U.S. but this is a good and energy efficient way to cook chicken. We had it with cold sake.

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