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Easy Chinese Paper Wrapped Chicken Recipe: A Culinary Delight

If you're seeking a unique and flavourful way to prepare chicken, then you should try making Chinese paper-wrapped chicken. This dish is a popular appetiser that's easy to make and sure to impress your dinner guests. The chicken is marinated in a delicious blend of Asian-inspired flavours, wrapped in paper, and then deep-fried until crispy and golden brown.

A whole chicken wrapped in parchment paper with Chinese seasonings and herbs, ready to be baked or steamed

Chinese paper-wrapped chicken, also known as "zhi bao ji," is a traditional Chinese dish that dates back to the Ming Dynasty. It is said that the dish was originally created by a chef who wanted to impress the emperor with his culinary skills. The chef wrapped the chicken in paper to keep it moist and flavourful, and the dish was an instant hit.

To make Chinese paper-wrapped chicken, you'll need boneless chicken thighs, Chinese mushrooms, green onions, cilantro, and cellophane paper or parchment paper. You'll also need a few pantry staples like soy sauce, hoisin sauce, cornstarch, and sugar. If you're feeling adventurous, you can also add seafood to the recipe. Shrimp or scallops would be a great addition to the dish.

Key Takeaways

  • Chinese paper-wrapped chicken is a delicious and unique way to prepare chicken.
  • The dish has its origins in the Ming Dynasty and is a popular appetiser in Chinese cuisine.
  • You can add seafood to the recipe for an extra burst of flavour.

Origins and Cultural Significance

A table set with traditional Chinese ingredients for paper-wrapped chicken. A pair of chopsticks rests on a delicate plate, ready to wrap the marinated chicken in paper before steaming

Historical Background

Chinese paper-wrapped chicken has a rich history that dates back to the Guangdong province of China. The dish is also known as "zhi bao ji" in Mandarin. It was initially prepared as a way to seal in the flavors of the ingredients while cooking. The chicken is marinated with a variety of spices and then wrapped in paper before being deep-fried. The paper wrapping helps to keep the chicken moist and juicy, while also adding a unique flavor to the dish.

The dish gained popularity in Singapore in the 1950s when a local eatery called Union Farm started selling it as "chee pow kai". Since then, paper-wrapped chicken has become a staple in Chinese cuisine and is enjoyed by people all over the world.

Regional Variations

While the basic recipe for paper-wrapped chicken remains the same, there are regional variations that add their own unique twist to the dish. For example, some recipes call for the addition of seafood such as prawns or squid, which adds a delicious seafood flavor to the chicken.

In some parts of China, paper-wrapped chicken is served with a sweet and sour sauce, while in other regions, it is served with a spicy dipping sauce. The dish is also commonly served during special occasions such as weddings and Chinese New Year celebrations, highlighting its cultural importance.

If you're feeling adventurous, you can try adding some seafood to your paper-wrapped chicken recipe. Prawns or squid would be a great addition, adding a unique flavor and texture to the dish. Just make sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly to ensure that the seafood is cooked through.

Ingredients and Substitutions

A table with ingredients: chicken, shiitake mushrooms, ginger, soy sauce, and parchment paper. Possible substitutions: tofu, oyster sauce, and bamboo shoots

Key Ingredients

When it comes to making Chinese paper-wrapped chicken, there are a few key ingredients that you will need to make sure you have on hand. These include chicken, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, and oyster sauce. These ingredients are essential to the recipe and cannot be substituted.

Chicken is the star of the dish and is what gives it its flavour. You can use any part of the chicken, but it is recommended to use boneless chicken thighs for the best results. Ginger adds a subtle heat and depth of flavour to the dish, while soy sauce and sesame oil give it a savoury and nutty taste. Oyster sauce is used to add sweetness and depth to the dish.

Alternative Ingredients

If you cannot find some of the key ingredients, there are some alternative ingredients that you can use instead. For example, if you cannot find chicken, you can use beef or seafood, such as prawns or fish. If you cannot find ginger, you can use garlic instead. If you cannot find oyster sauce, you can substitute it with hoisin sauce.

Green onions and Chinese sausage are also commonly used in this dish. Green onions add a fresh and slightly sweet taste, while Chinese sausage adds a smoky and savoury flavour. If you cannot find Chinese sausage, you can use bacon or ham as a substitute.

If you want to add more flavour to the dish, you can use five-spice powder. This is a blend of spices that includes cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. It adds a warm and slightly sweet flavour to the dish.

When it comes to seafood, you can use prawns, scallops or crab meat as a substitute for chicken. These seafood ingredients will give your dish a different flavour profile and texture, but they will still work well with the other ingredients in the recipe.

Preparation Techniques

Chicken pieces marinated in soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. Wrapped in parchment paper with shiitake mushrooms and steamed. Ready for illustration

Marinating the Chicken

Before you start preparing the chicken for paper wrapping, you need to marinate it. This step is crucial as it ensures that the chicken is flavourful and tender. You can use a variety of marinades, but the most common one is made with light soya sauce and Shaoxing wine. You can also add garlic, ginger, and other spices to enhance the flavour. If you are a seafood lover, you can also add some shrimp or squid to the marinade to give it a seafood twist.

Wrapping in Paper

Once you have marinated the chicken, it's time to wrap it in paper. Traditionally, parchment paper or baking paper is used for this purpose. Cut the paper into squares of about 20 by 20 cm. Place a few pieces of chicken in the centre of the paper, along with some mushrooms, green onions, and coriander. Be sure to keep the filling in the centre and not near the edges. Fold the paper into an envelope shape, making sure to seal the edges tightly. You can use a toothpick to secure the edges if necessary.

Cooking Methods

There are several ways to cook paper-wrapped chicken. The most common methods are deep-frying and baking. If you choose to deep-fry the chicken, heat the oil in a wok or deep-fryer until it's hot. Carefully add the paper-wrapped chicken to the oil and fry until it's golden brown and crispy. If you prefer to bake the chicken, preheat the oven to 180°C and bake for about 20-25 minutes. You can also try grilling or steaming the chicken for a healthier option.

If you are a seafood lover, you can also add some shrimp or squid to the paper-wrapped chicken. The seafood will add a unique flavour and texture to the dish. You can use small shrimp or squid rings for this purpose. Just make sure to marinate them along with the chicken before wrapping them in paper.

Serving and Presentation

A plate of Chinese paper-wrapped chicken is placed on a bamboo mat, with steam rising from the package. A pair of chopsticks is positioned next to the dish

Plating Suggestions

When serving Chinese paper-wrapped chicken, it is best to present it in the paper triangles in which it was cooked. This allows the diner to experience the full aroma and flavour of the dish. You can also unwrap the paper and transfer the chicken to a plate, but this may result in a loss of flavour.

To make the presentation more appealing, you can garnish the dish with fresh cilantro leaves. This adds a pop of colour and freshness to the dish, and complements the flavours of the chicken.


Chinese paper-wrapped chicken is a versatile dish that can be served as an appetizer or as a main course. To make it a complete meal, you can serve it with steamed rice and stir-fried vegetables.

If you want to add a seafood twist to the recipe, you can use prawns or scallops instead of chicken. The seafood will add a unique flavour to the dish and make it more interesting. When using seafood, be sure to cook it thoroughly to avoid any food safety issues.

It is important to serve the dish immediately after cooking to ensure that it is hot and fresh. This will allow the diner to fully enjoy the aroma and flavour of the dish.

Chinese paper-wrapped chicken is a delicious and unique dish that is sure to impress your guests. With its fragrant aroma and robust flavour, it is a great addition to any meal.

Tips and Tricks

A table with ingredients like chicken, soy sauce, and spices. A pair of hands wrapping chicken in parchment paper

Achieving the Perfect Texture

The texture of the chicken in the paper-wrapped chicken recipe is crucial to its success. You want the meat to be juicy, tender, and succulent. To achieve this, marinate the chicken for at least 3 hours in the fridge. This allows the flavours to penetrate the meat and makes it more tender. When wrapping the chicken, make sure to keep the pieces small, about 1.5 - 2 inches in size, as they are easier to wrap and ensure that the meat cooks evenly.

Another tip to achieve the perfect texture is to deep-fry the chicken for about 3-4 minutes before steaming it. This will give the chicken a crispy exterior and a juicy interior.

If you want to explore using seafood in this recipe, you can substitute the chicken with prawns or fish fillets. Prawns or fish fillets should be marinated for at least 30 minutes before wrapping them in the paper and steaming them for 5-6 minutes.

Flavour Enhancements

To enhance the fragrance of the dish, you can add sliced ginger and green onions to the marinade. Other flavour enhancements include adding soy sauce, oyster sauce, or Shaoxing wine to the marinade.

You can also experiment with different types of paper for wrapping the chicken. You can use parchment paper, cellophane paper, or even banana leaves. The choice of paper will affect the flavour and texture of the dish.

In conclusion, follow these tips and tricks to achieve the perfect texture and enhance the flavour of your Chinese paper-wrapped chicken recipe. Remember to experiment with different ingredients and techniques to make the recipe your own.

Frequently Asked Questions

A table with ingredients for Chinese paper wrapped chicken, a bowl of marinated chicken, and a stack of parchment paper

How can I make paper wrapped chicken in the oven?

While paper wrapped chicken is traditionally cooked by steaming and deep-frying, it is possible to make it in the oven. To do so, preheat your oven to 200°C and place the paper-wrapped chicken on a baking sheet. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. However, keep in mind that this method may not result in the same level of crispiness as the traditional method.

What's the secret to a crispy paper wrapped chicken?

The secret to a crispy paper wrapped chicken is to ensure that the chicken is marinated well and that the paper is wrapped tightly around the chicken. Additionally, deep-frying the chicken after it has been steamed helps to achieve the desired level of crispiness.

Can you recommend a simple recipe for paper wrapped chicken?

A simple recipe for paper wrapped chicken involves marinating chicken pieces in a mixture of soy sauce, oyster sauce, and Chinese wine, then wrapping them in parchment paper and steaming them for about 20 minutes. After steaming, deep-fry the chicken for a few minutes until crispy. You can also add seafood like prawns or scallops to the recipe for added flavour.

What's the history behind paper wrapped chicken?

Paper wrapped chicken is a traditional Cantonese dish that originated in China. It is said to have been created by a chef who was trying to find a way to keep the moisture and flavour of the chicken intact while cooking it. The use of paper to wrap the chicken allowed it to be steamed and deep-fried, resulting in a juicy and flavourful dish.

Is it possible to cook paper wrapped chicken in an air fryer?

Yes, it is possible to cook paper wrapped chicken in an air fryer. Preheat the air fryer to 200°C and place the paper-wrapped chicken inside. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and crispy. However, keep in mind that the texture may be slightly different compared to the traditional method.

Where can I find the best recipe for paper wrapped chicken?

There are many different recipes for paper wrapped chicken available online and in cookbooks. It's best to look for recipes that have good reviews and ratings from other cooks. You can also experiment with different ingredients and flavours to find a recipe that suits your taste.