Sake-Steamed Whole Chicken

Sake-Steamed Whole Chicken


Here's a simple method my pal and coauthor Chef Tadashi Ono of Matsuri mentioned to me last week: Steaming a whole chicken with sake. It couldn't be easier. Salt a whole chicken. Find a big pot (a Le Creuset French oven works perfectly) and stick a steaming basket inside (unscrew and remove the post in the center). Pour a mixture of water and sake in a 1:1 ratio into the pot until it reaches the top of the steamer. Position the chicken on the steamer and turn on the heat. Cook until the chicken is done, oh, about 45 minutes or so. You can test for doneness by making a cut between the thigh and the breast and peeking inside. If the juices run clear and the meat by the bone is no longer red, you're, as they say, golden. While the chicken is steaming, grate some daikon to make daikon oroshi (grated daikon). Also, pour ponzu sauce into individual serving bowls. Okay, now, very important: When the chicken is ready, allow it to cool to room temperature or so inside the pot. This way it will retain its succulence. If you pull it out of the pot and cut it up immediately, you'll end up with dry chicken. Patience is key. When you're ready to eat, add some daikon oroshi to the ponzu to give it body, and dip pieces of the chicken into the sauce. What you'll discover is that the steaming sake tenderized the chicken while it cooked, so it turns out incredibly moist and flavorful. Finally, you can reduce the steaming liquid down to a sauce and pour over the chicken if you'd like (more French than Japanese, but, hey). This chicken, leftover and out of the fridge, is also fantastic. Guess what I ate for lunch today? Tadashi, you are one amazing cook, brother. Thank you.

Posted by Harris Salat in Chicken | Permalink | Comments (28) | Email | Print

Comments (28)

This sounds great and is definitely going on my Must Try Soon list, but do you mean to have the liquid come to the top of the steamer? Sounds like it would be covering the chicken in that case, i.e. poaching and not steaming.
Hi Catherine, good catch: What I mean is for the water/sake liquid to just come up to the top of the steamer basket, that is, what the chicken is resting on. So the chicken should not be immersed in liquid, but steaming in the liquid bubbling below it. Does this make sense? Thanks, Harris
Will definitely try! Sounds great. If only adding water and sake to top of steaming basket and if you steam the chicken for about 45 minutes, would you have to keep adding water and sake (as it evaporates)?
Hi, Eleni, just check the pot occasionally to make sure there's still steaming liquid on the bottom. I didn't have to add more myself, but depends on your pot, and amount of heat. Thanks, Harris
I made the chicken last night but of course I couldn't just use sake- I used 2C chicken broth,1C sake,1/2C sherry,1/2Cmirim, 2Tsoy sauce,2 sprigs of fresh thyme, 1cl.garlic and a bit of onion placed inside. It was wonderful-I served it with sweet & sour chiffonade brussels sprouts and buttered noodles w/ parsley. Not your normal Asian inspired meal but tasty non the less. Thanks for the inspiration!
This sounds so good; I love such simple Japanese recipes, very "pure". We are only 2 persons, a whole chicken could be a little too much, what do you think if I use only chicken legs, same steam time, or shorter? Do you know the Japanese recipe, steamed chicken with creamy sesame sauce? I love this one, but it’s more a summer recipe.
Of course! Works great with just a chicken breast, too. Don't forget to let the chicken cool *inside* the closed steaming pot, so it retains its succulence. As far as timing, try 30 min or so (maybe a little less?). That sesame sauce sounds great. I don't know it. If you have a method, please share with the JFR gang! Thanks, Amato.................. Harris
I made this the day after u posted the recipe and it will be on my blog on Tuesday. It was one fabulous chicken, I waited patiently for it to cool in the pot... by the by just found out Montreal has fresh Yuzu's in town and I am going to buy and squeeze and bottle is $24 bucks for pure juice.
Sound delicious. What style of sake would be best, do you think? Seems like you could have some interesting differences in final taste depending on the sake, that is, if you were willing to sacrifice good sake to the pot.
Hi, I suggest a decent, inexpensive the good stuff for drinking! Thanks....... Harris
I just discovered this wonderful site after linking from Ruth Reichl's Twitter post linking to this recipe. It will be a delight working through your posts on a favorite cooking style - there is so much to learn. This recipe for sake steamed chicken may be the first recipe (of many) that I attempt! Consider yourself bookmarked! :)
Just bought a Belle Rouge Toriniku at Union Square Greenmarket for this recipe. Those are the closest to the Jidori of Cochin Japanese style Chicken I can find; they are great. Can't wait to try it with that bird. Hey Harris, when are you going to discuss Chicken Sashimi? I just had some toriniku sahsimi in Tokyo and it was oishii for sure. Not sure I'd risk it with the chickens here, but its at least worth a discussion (with a lawyer's warnings)
Thanks for your comment! I've had chicken sashimi in Kagoshima and Nagoya, and it was excellent. But I think I'd stick to Japan for this particular dish -- h.
What a good idea, I've seen whole poached chicken Chinese style with slices of fresh ginger & spring onion but this would also be interesting to try.
Finally made this with that Belle Rouge chicken from Union Square Greenmarket. So clean and Oishii. I was patient and let it get to room temp (ok, maybe a few notches higher). Went great with a Junmai from Sakaya. Now in my classic recipe file. Thank's Harris.
This sounds wonderful. This is one of those concepts that is so simple that you wonder why you didn't think of it yourself! Off to buy a chicken...
Hi Harris, do you want me to put the sesame chicken recipe here, or I cook it tonight and put recipe with pictures on my blog next days? You decide! :-)
please add it to these comments! thanks, Harris


This dish originates from Chinese cuisine, the recipe is a mix from my cooking books and small changes I did. It’s rich and very creamy, fantastic.

3 chicken legs with skin (you can bone the chicken, then you can eat the dish warmer)
2 green onion (only the white part)
50 ml sake
2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoons sesame oil (roasted)
1 teaspoon la-yu chili oil

Put together in a bowl, and steam the chicken for 25 minutes or longer -- Not sure. Chicken is done if you cut and there is no red juice coming out. Let it slightly cool in the liquid (this you taught me). It should be still warm. Peel the chicken from the bone.

50-80 ml hot cooking liquid from the chicken
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, shiro goma: roast in a pan
4 tablespoons neri goma, sesame paste
2 tablespoons shoyu, dark
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon rice vinegar, su
1 teaspoon chili paste (sambal oelek) or other, or a fresh red hot chili pepper (better) chopped fine
2 green onion (the green)
1 teaspoon ginger, fine grated (oroshi)
2 teaspoon garlic, fine grated (oroshi)

1 fresh cucumber, peeled, seeded
Better small Japanese cucumbers, if you can get some.

Cut the cucumber in strips, rub with little salt, this improves the taste and color. Let stand for 5 Minutes. You can enjoy the cucumber like this; I like to add a little sugar and rice vinegar, but only a little.

Sesame sauce:
Cooking liquid should be hot/warm, this dish shouldn’t be served cold, neither hot.

Put the liquid together with all ingredients (leave green onion out) in a suribachi and mix. The mixture should be creamy. Check the taste and add shoyu if you like, it is a little sweet. Add green onion after mixed. Add the chicken to sesame sauce and mix, serve on cucumbers.

I don’t like the chicken skin, you can remove (I give it to my cat) or not. This is a very nice summer dish, but of course you can enjoy as you like.Of course its very nice cold, as a "salad".


I will come back and check if you should have questions. I put it on my blog with pics next days, but sometimes it takes me longer to do, this way you can enjoy it soon. ;-) I'm very curios if you will try and like it!

Regards, Amato

Thanks for this terrific recipe, Amato! Yes, please let me know when you cook it and post on your blog and I'll share the link. I added your blog to my blogroll, by the way. I don't read German but I can see tons of great stuff, plus lovely photos. Thanks, Harris
Hi Harris, oh my god, thank you so much for adding me to your blog roll...Great honor for me, really. I let you know when I’m done with the post, I always need some time. I already cooked it but not done yet with writing (sometimes I need longer, because, you know, I get hungry and instead of taking pictures…;-) ) I will write in English and German, this way interested people can follow the recipes. By the way, your book arrived today. There are tons of great stuff! ;-) Love the home made soba noodles nabe and many more. Thank you for such great book!
Thank you, Amato! Appreciate you reading the JFR and posting your terrific comments. -- Harris
Wow this sounds great! Thanks for the recipe. I can't wait to try this out next. Absolutely love the chinese style steamed chicken, so can't wait to try it steamed with sake!
Wonderful site and in line with my current desire to learn more about Asian cuisine, from the Near east to the Far east! Thank you and this recipe is next to try! Joumana
Thanks, Joumana, your website looks fabulous, by the way! I love Lebanese cooking and can't wait to try some your recipes.... Harris
Has anyone made the original recipe with boneless chicken breasts and/or thighs? Wondering about cooking time...??
I found your blog searching for steamed chicken recipes. wow! I tried this recipe, using hakatsuru sake. as you said, I let the chicken cool thoroughly, more than an hour in the pot (I double stacked my metal steamers so that I had plenty of room under the bird for steaming liquid) and the meat was pom-pom tender, packed with juices bursting under the tooth. we were also making fresh ravioli that evening, so decided to fillet off a few choice pieces of meat and skin and made some sake-steamed chicken ravioli, served in parmesan-rind broth. sort of a take on chicken noodle soup. thanks for sharing the amazing recipe for the chicken! I'm definitely going to be checking this blog out regularly from now on. one quick question, have you used the sake-steam method for fish, and if yes, any recommendations? Best, Tedd
No Saki in the house. Used beer and water mixed 3 to 1. Great chicken!

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