“There’s a saying ‘it’s not a feast if there’s no chicken’. Chicken, unlike with pork, beef or seafood, appeals to almost everyone, therefore chopping chicken is a basic skill of a professional chef,” said Cheng Kam Fu, executive chef at one Michelin-starred Celebrity Cuisine.
“It’s in fact very smart. Shredding guarantees minimum loss of chicken juice, and that doesn’t taste worse than sliced chicken. However, the method is more appropriate for small families. When it comes to a larger group of people or a dinner for guests, it’s always more convenient to chop the chicken into pieces,” he said.
When Cheng was working at traditional Chinese restaurants, he spent a lot of time on banquets.
“There were tens or even hundreds of tables in every banquet, and Chinese fried chicken was always on the menu. You can figure out how many chickens we needed to chop up every day. A professional kitchen is equipped with many chopping boards. Once the chicken is fried, it’s sent to the cook responsible for chopping, and then served to diners right away. Chinese fried chicken needs to arrive at the dining table as quickly as possible, so that it comes with hot air in front of diners and tastes hot enough when eaten. Efficiency is the most crucial element in the whole process,” he noted.
Chinese fried chicken is the dish that makes Cheng’s name. Celebrity Cuisine picks female Lung Guang chicken at about 100 days old, three catties in size. The chicken’s fattiness makes for the best effect after deep-fried.
“Fresh chicken is a must to make a good Chinese fried chicken. I also like the amount of fat in Lung Guang chicken which suits this dish particularly well,” Cheng said.
The technique of chopping chicken comes in handy in other dishes where the chicken is cooked whole, such as white cut chicken, Hainan chicken, huadiao chicken, and chicken with Chinese cured ham and Chinese kale.
Every chef has their approach in chopping chicken. Cheng drew from decades of experience and shared with us some tips of his own.
1) Pay attention to the bone and flesh structure of the chicken. Locate the joints and chop in the middle.
2) Separate the wings and legs from the chicken body and further cut them up. Divide the chicken breast into smaller pieces.
3) For the size of the Chinese fried chicken, it’s a good idea to separate the chicken into two pieces each of chicken ribs, legs and wings, and one piece of breast.
4) Arrange the pieces to the shape of a chicken. Experience is the key to a beautiful presentation. In conclusion, Cheng added, “If chopping is too difficult of a task, it’s fine to cut the chicken with scissors.”