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Unlocking Traditional Health: Chinese Herbal Steam Chicken Recipe

If you're looking for a delicious and healthy way to prepare chicken, look no further than the Chinese herbal steam chicken recipe. This dish is a staple of Chinese cuisine and has been enjoyed for centuries, thanks to its unique blend of herbs and spices that infuse the chicken with flavour and nutrition.

A whole chicken surrounded by aromatic Chinese herbs steaming in a large pot on a stove

The origins of this recipe can be traced back to ancient Chinese medicine, which used herbs and other natural ingredients to promote health and wellbeing. Today, the recipe is still popular in Chinese households and is often served during special occasions or family gatherings.

To prepare this dish, you'll need a few essential ingredients, including Chinese angelica root, American ginseng, and goji berries, which can be found at most Asian grocery stores. Once you've gathered your ingredients, you'll need to marinate the chicken and then steam it with the herbs and spices to create a tender and flavourful dish.

Key Takeaways

  • Chinese herbal steam chicken is a traditional Chinese dish that combines chicken with a blend of herbs and spices.
  • The recipe has its roots in ancient Chinese medicine and is still popular today.
  • To make this dish, you'll need essential ingredients like Chinese angelica root, American ginseng, and goji berries, and you'll need to steam the chicken to perfection.

Origins and Cultural Significance

A steaming pot of Chinese herbal chicken surrounded by traditional herbs and ingredients, symbolizing centuries-old culinary and medicinal traditions

Historical Background

Chinese Herbal Steam Chicken is a traditional dish that has been enjoyed in China for centuries. It is believed that the dish originated during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), when the use of Chinese herbs in cooking became increasingly popular. The dish was often served during special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, and festivals.

The use of herbs in Chinese cuisine is deeply rooted in Chinese culture and tradition. Chinese herbs are believed to have medicinal properties that can help promote health and prevent illness. Herbs such as dang gui, american ginseng, jujube fruit, goji berries, and codonopsis root are commonly used in Chinese cooking, including in the preparation of Chinese Herbal Steam Chicken.

Health Benefits

Chinese Herbal Steam Chicken is not only delicious but also packed with health benefits. The herbs used in the dish are believed to have various health benefits, such as improving blood circulation, boosting the immune system, and reducing inflammation. For instance, dang gui, which is a key ingredient in the dish, is believed to be beneficial for women's health, as it can help regulate menstrual cycles and alleviate menstrual cramps.

Moreover, the chicken used in the dish is a good source of protein, which is essential for building and repairing tissues in the body. The dish is also low in fat and calories, making it a healthy option for those who are watching their weight.

Proposing the use of seafood in the recipe, prawns and scallops can be used as a substitute or addition to chicken in the recipe. The seafood adds a unique flavour to the dish and provides additional health benefits such as being a good source of omega-3 fatty acids which can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Prawns and scallops are also a good source of protein and can be a great alternative for those who prefer seafood over chicken.

Essential Ingredients

A whole chicken, ginger, scallions, and Chinese herbs arranged in a steaming basket over a pot of boiling water

To make Chinese herbal steam chicken, you will need a few essential ingredients. In this section, we will discuss these ingredients and what makes them important to the recipe.

Selecting the Chicken

The most important ingredient in this recipe is, of course, the chicken. When selecting a chicken for this recipe, it is important to choose a fresh, high-quality bird. You may choose to use either a whole chicken or chicken drumsticks, depending on your preference.

Chinese Herbs Overview

The Chinese herbs used in this recipe are what give it its unique flavour and aroma. The most important herb used in this recipe is Chinese angelica, also known as dang gui. Other herbs used in this recipe may include red dates, goji berries, and yu zhu.

Sauces and Seasonings

To add even more flavour to the chicken, you will need to use a few sauces and seasonings. Soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, and salt are all essential ingredients in this recipe. You may also choose to use oyster sauce or Shaoxing wine for added flavour.

If you are feeling adventurous, you may even consider adding seafood to this recipe. Fresh prawns or scallops would be an excellent addition to this dish, adding a touch of sweetness and a different texture to the dish.

The combination of fresh chicken, Chinese herbs, and flavourful sauces and seasonings make this recipe a delicious and healthy meal option.

Preparing the Chicken

A whole chicken is being marinated in Chinese herbs and spices before being placed in a steamer. Steam rises from the pot as the chicken cooks

Before you start cooking, you need to prepare the chicken. Here are the steps to follow:

Marinating the Chicken

First, you need to marinate the chicken. For this recipe, you can use chicken drumsticks or chicken thighs. To make the marinade, mix garlic cloves, seasoning, white pepper, and ground white pepper in a bowl. Then, add the chicken to the bowl and mix well so that the chicken is coated in the marinade sauce. Let the chicken marinate for at least an hour to absorb the flavours.

If you want to add seafood to the recipe, you can use prawns or scallops. Simply mix them with the marinade sauce and let them marinate for a few minutes.

Stuffing and Wrapping

After the chicken has marinated, it's time to stuff and wrap it. For this recipe, you will need Chinese herbs such as dang gui, goji berries, and red dates. You can also add shiitake mushrooms for extra flavour.

To stuff the chicken, make small incisions in the chicken and insert the herbs and mushrooms. Make sure to distribute them evenly throughout the chicken.

Next, wrap the chicken in parchment paper or banana leaves. This will keep the chicken moist while it steams. Place the wrapped chicken in a steamer and steam for about 45-50 minutes.

That's it! Your Chinese herbal steam chicken is ready to serve. Enjoy it with some steamed rice and vegetables for a healthy and delicious meal.

Steaming Process

A pot of herbal steam surrounds a whole chicken, infusing it with aromatic flavors

Setting Up the Steamer

To start the steaming process for your Chinese herbal steam chicken recipe, you need to set up a steamer. You can use a bamboo steamer or any other steamer that you have in your kitchen. Make sure to fill the steamer with enough water, but not too much that it touches the chicken.

Next, place a steaming plate in the steamer. You can use any plate that fits in the steamer. However, it is recommended to use a plate that is slightly smaller than the steamer to allow the steam to circulate around the chicken.

Cooking Duration and Techniques

Once the steamer is set up, it's time to start cooking your Chinese herbal steam chicken. The cooking duration and techniques will depend on the size of the chicken and the type of steamer that you are using.

Generally, a whole chicken will take around 45-60 minutes to cook. You can check if the chicken is cooked by inserting a toothpick into the thickest part of the chicken. If the juice runs clear, the chicken is cooked.

To ensure the chicken is tender, make sure to marinate it for at least an hour before steaming. This will help to infuse the chicken with the herbal aroma and flavour.

If you want to add seafood to your Chinese herbal steam chicken recipe, you can use prawns or scallops. Simply place them on top of the chicken before steaming. Make sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

The steaming process is a crucial step in making Chinese herbal steam chicken. With the right set up and cooking techniques, you can achieve a tender and juicy texture that is infused with a wonderful herbal aroma.

Serving and Pairing

A steaming bowl of Chinese herbal steam chicken is placed next to a variety of traditional Chinese herbs and ingredients, ready to be paired and served


When serving Chinese herbal steam chicken, it is common to pair it with steamed rice to soak up the delicious broth. You can also serve the dish with a side of green vegetables, such as steamed broccoli or bok choy, to add some freshness to the meal.

If you want to add some additional flavour to the dish, you can prepare a sauce to drizzle over the chicken. A simple soy sauce and sesame oil mixture works well, or you can try a more complex sauce made with oyster sauce, garlic, and ginger.

For seafood lovers, you can add some shrimp or scallops to the dish to give it a seafood twist. The delicate flavour of seafood pairs well with the herbal broth and can make for a delicious variation of the traditional recipe.

Presentation Tips

When presenting the Chinese herbal steam chicken, it is important to keep the dish visually appealing. You can garnish the dish with some chopped green onions to add some colour and freshness.

To make the dish look even more appetising, you can serve it in a traditional bamboo steamer basket. This not only adds to the presentation, but also keeps the chicken warm and moist.

If you want to serve the dish family-style, you can transfer the chicken and broth to a large serving bowl and allow everyone to serve themselves. Make sure to have some ladles or spoons available for serving the broth.

Overall, Chinese herbal steam chicken is a versatile and delicious dish that can be paired with a variety of accompaniments and presented in different ways. Experiment with different flavours and presentation styles to find what works best for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

A pot of Chinese herbal steam chicken surrounded by various herbs and spices, with steam rising from the pot

What are the essential herbs needed for a classic herbal chicken recipe?

The essential herbs for a classic herbal chicken recipe include Chinese angelica (dang gui), goji berries, and solomon's seal. These herbs are believed to have medicinal properties that can help improve blood circulation, boost the immune system, and promote overall health. Other herbs that can be used in a herbal chicken recipe include astragalus, licorice root, and wolfberries.

Could you suggest an easy method to prepare steam herbal chicken?

Yes, an easy method to prepare steam herbal chicken is to marinate the chicken with the seasoning and herbs for at least an hour before steaming. You can use a steaming plate or a bamboo steamer basket to steam the chicken. Add water to a wok or pot and bring it to a boil. Place the steaming plate or basket over the water and steam the chicken for about 30 minutes or until it is fully cooked.

What's the secret to making the best-tasting herbal steam chicken?

The secret to making the best-tasting herbal steam chicken is to use fresh and high-quality ingredients. Make sure to use fresh herbs and spices and marinate the chicken for at least an hour to allow the flavours to infuse. Also, avoid overcooking the chicken as it can make it dry and tough.

How can I incorporate dang gui into my steam chicken for enhanced flavour?

To incorporate dang gui into your steam chicken for enhanced flavour, you can add it to the marinade along with other herbs and spices. You can also stuff the chicken cavity with dang gui and other herbs before steaming. Another way is to make a dang gui tea and use it as a steaming liquid for the chicken.

Can you steam chicken in foil, and does it affect the taste?

Yes, you can steam chicken in foil, but it may affect the taste and texture of the chicken. Steaming chicken in foil can make it more tender and juicy, but it may also make it less flavourful as the herbs and spices cannot penetrate the foil. It is recommended to use a steaming plate or a bamboo steamer basket for the best results.

Is there a difference between paper-wrapped and foil-wrapped methods for herbal chicken?

Yes, there is a difference between paper-wrapped and foil-wrapped methods for herbal chicken. Paper-wrapped chicken is usually steamed with herbs and spices inside a paper parcel, which helps to infuse the flavours into the chicken. Foil-wrapped chicken is usually steamed with herbs and spices inside a foil parcel, which helps to retain the moisture and flavour of the chicken. Both methods can produce delicious and flavourful herbal chicken, but the choice of method depends on personal preference.

As a suggestion, you can use prawns or scallops to add seafood to the recipe. They can be marinated with the same seasoning and herbs as the chicken and steamed together for a delicious seafood and herbal chicken dish.