Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Master Stock Poached Chicken Breast

          If you compare European and Asian culinary traditions, you will see that they differ a lot in the use of ingredients and in cooking techniques. Even preparing a piece of lean meat by one of the simplest methods – poaching – will yield to different results if accomplished by chefs with dissimilar backgrounds: one will most probably use court-bouillon as a poaching liquid while the other one will go for something that is called Master stock.

            Master stock originated in Chinese cuisine and, no wonder, it has all the typical Asian flavours: soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, ginger, citrus peel and a number of spices – cinnamon, star anise and black peppercorns being the main ones. No wonder, in winter I prefer this aromatic broth with a very strong, sometimes even pungent taste, to a more subtle European style consommé. There is something very comforting in such a stew; and what I love most about it is the fantastic aroma from the mélange of spices that fills the whole house when the stock is simmering on the stove.

Recently I read that theoretically master stock should not be transformed into a soup: it is strained and kept refrigerated for future use as a poaching liquid. They say, some stocks in China are hundreds of years old and are highly praised as they have been accumulating the flavours and developing their rich and complex taste for such a long period of time. For me, however, the temptation is way too big: I can’t imagine leaving such an aromatic substance out of the plate! Believe me, it makes a perfect treat: light and fragrant, with a sweet note of cinnamon, a spicy touch of ginger and tangy undertone of a citrus peel. What else do you need on a winter day?


3 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
1,5 lt water
1 shallot
1 garlic clove
2, 5 cm piece of ginger
3 tbsp rice wine or sherry
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
3 cloves
5 black peppercorns
a peel of 1 mandarin


  1. Bring water, together with the vegetables, sauces and spices, to a boil. Add chicken breasts and let simmer for 1 hour or till it is cooked.
  2. Strain the stock. Transfer chicken to a bowl and pour the stock over it. Serve with steamed vegetables and noodles.

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