The restorative powers of ginger

Often, especially following an indulgent weekend or a few days of travelling, I start to crave Asian flavours, in particular the restorative combination of ginger and fresh chilli. Ginger has always been known for its ‘superpowers’ and healing effects. I was brought up learning to fend off a cold and sore throat with a concoction of hot water, lemon, honey and fresh ginger – so soothing and warming, or leave out the lemon and it helps calm a sore tummy. Google the powers of ginger and the  list goes on… but I love the flavour, as did my mother, and i am now finding that most of her dishes will have at least  hint of ginger in the recipe.

This past weekend was one of those indulgent ones… celebrating a special birthday of a close friend whom I first met in Hong Kong in 1997, right before I moved to Hanoi. Hong Kong is a city where you work hard and play hard. It was not uncommon to work a late shift in the restaurant and then go out in Lan Kwai Fong afterwards…  getting home at 3am. The last time this particular group of girls got together for a big birthday was in Hong Kong about 5 years ago…two of us flew in for 3 days and our feet never touched the ground. We started and ended the trip with a bowl of won ton noodles… HK comfort food at its best! We rocked into the hotel at 5am on the Sunday morning, greeted by the smell of bacon cooking, had time for a quick nap before the bargains of Stanley Market beckoned and then the much-needed Dim Sum lunch in Causeway Bay with the rest of the gang. Dim Sum is a much-loved institution and seems to have remarkable powers at putting the world to rights after a big night out. I digress….!

So after the past big weekend where we indulged and danced like it was 1980-something, I wanted to start the week with a kick of ginger, garlic & chilli which ticked the comfort food box. This is a dish I have adapted from a traditional Chinese favourite of Claypot Chicken Rice. I haven’t cooked it in a claypot as mine would feed two maximum, and I have the hungry boys to feed, plus need a little bit leftover for my lunch – any saucepan/large frying pan with a tight fitting lid will work. I also have omitted the traditional dried/shitake mushrooms as one child is not keen on them, but they can be added to the chicken mixture. I also used brown rice – as this takes longer to cook, I par-cooked it for 10 mins first and the left it to steam with the saucepan lid on. The flavour isn’t vastly different, but the texture is a little nuttier, and of course, I felt more virtuous!

Ginger Chicken  Rice

8 chicken thighs – boneless, skinless and cut into 2

1 red onion – sliced

5 spring onions – chopped

3 cups of uncooked rice (I used brown basmati)

Salt to taste

2 Tbs oil


2 cloves garlic – crushed

1 x 2cm piece ginger – grated

1 tsp brown sugar

1 Tbs Dark Soy

1 Tbs Chilli bean sauce

1 Tbs Rice wine

1 Tbs Light soy


Mix the chicken with the marinade and leave for at least 20 minutes. Wash and soak the rice – rinse until the water runs clear and then soak for 10 minutes. Drain and put in the bottom of the pan you will cook in.

In a separate pan (I used a wok), heat the oil and then add the red onions. You could also add a dried red chilli at the stage. Cook until just soft and add the chicken. You just want to brown the chicken on both sides. Pile this mixture on top of the rice, flattening down to ensure the chicken layer is flat and goes out to the edge. Put 3/4 of the spring onions on top. Then add boiling water until it is almost up to the bottom of the chicken. Turn the heat up to high and bring everything to the boil for at least 2 minutes, until the water starts to evaporate. Then put the lid on, turn the heat right down to minimum and cook for at least 20 mins (brown rice will take a little longer). Once the rice looks cooked (take off the lid and have a peek under a piece of chicken), leave it to sit with the lid for a further 5-10 minutes so that all the flavours are absorbed. Garnish with chopped spring onion.

Serve with stir fried or steamed vegetables. I also had some chopped fresh chilli in light soy for a little extra spiciness! Needless to say, this dish is also a favourite of the boys being quick, tasty and wholesome!

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