This homestyle soy sauce chicken is something I’ve been making at home for YEARS! And let me tell you, omg the FLAVOUR is AMAZING! It’s rich, slightly sweet, sticky, gingery and tastes so good with a bowl of rice. The flavour is intensified by cooking with drumsticks or thighs bone-in, skin-on. Remember, meats cooked with bones in are always more flavoursome.
Chopping through bones with a cleaver
DISCLAIMER! The chicken drumstick pieces in my photos have been chopped with a Chinese cleaver. Unless you’re experienced and are comfortable with handling a Chinese cleaver, it is not recommended to try that at home. Simply use whole drumsticks or chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on for this recipe.
When I say chopped drumsticks, I mean chopping it in half then chop the knee caps off (and discard). The trick is to go down with a firm, strong stroke for a clean cut. Like the image below on the right.
In order to chop drumsticks at home, you’ll need a thick bladed cleaver. Growing up, I thought everyone used cleavers to chop everything in the kitchen. Took me a while to learn how to use Western style knives!
Okay, I know most people don’t have a scary looking cleaver at home. So instead, the safe and recommended way is to use whole drumsticks or chicken thighs with bones in.
The reason why I like cooking this dish with chopped drumsticks is because: 1) It becomes the perfect size to eat with chopsticks; 2) with the bones exposed/open, more flavour go into the chicken and sauce which means FLAVOUR (think bone broths).
Nonetheless, it’ll still be super tasty if you use chicken thighs and whole drumsticks. You’ll struggle eating with chopsticks though – serve with knives and forks instead.
Alright, let’s get to it!
Ingredients for soy sauce chicken
- Dark/light soy sauces combo is used here to ensure we get as much flavour as possible in this dish. Dark soy sauces are stronger in flavour, darker in colour and lighter on the salt content than light soy sauces. This combo is very common in Chinese cuisines – in achieving that rich, umami flavour.
- Shaoxing wine is a Chinese cooking wine (really good quality ones can be consumed as a beverage) that is made with fermented rice. Similar to cooking with red or white wine, Shaoxing wine adds depth and aroma to a dish.
- Brown sugar is used a lot in the recipes (instead of white sugar) in this blog as I find they add more flavour (the molasses) to any dish!
- Sesame oil is used to provide a nutty aroma. A little goes a long way. Because sesame oils are very strong in flavour, you don’t want to overdo it.
- Garlic, ginger and scallions/spring onions this a a very common combo in Chinese cooking. Particularly any stew/slow cook dishes.
- Corn starch/cornflour is used here to thicken the sauce at the end of the cooking process. This is done by mixing a little corn starch with cold water and mixing in the sauce just before serving. A common practice for thickening gravy too!
How to cook soy sauce chicken
- STEP 1. Saute ginger slices, garlic and white ends of scallions until golden and fragrant. Reserve the green parts of scallions. This will be used at the end of the cooking process.
- STEP 2. Add chicken drumsticks or thighs. Saute on high until brown and skin lightly caramelised and golden. Browning meats prior to slow cooking adds depth and flavour to the final dish. Never skip this part!
- STEP 3. Now things get exciting. Splash in Shaoxing wine, keeping the heat on high, reduce wine by half. Now add soy sauces, sugar, sesame oil and water. Mix thoroughly, bring sauce to boil.
- STEP 4. Reduce heat to low, place a lid on and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces every 10 minutes to allow even seasoning.
- STEP 5. Mix in corn starch and cold water mixture. The sauce will thicken almost instantly.
- STEP 6. Remember the green parts of scallions? Now it’s time to mix them in the pot. This will freshen the dish up and provide a lovely aroma.
Here you have it! A pot of delicious, rich, sticky, sweet and savoury chicken with the most incredible sauce. Serve with a bowl of steaming rice and some simple sauteed Asian greens.
Tip for serving if chopping your chicken drumsticks
If you do have a thick bladed cleaver at home and are comfortable with cutting through chicken bones, there is something you need to know.. BONES.
It’s great cooking with bones (all that flavour!) HOWEVER! Inevitably, there will be a few small bone pieces in the sauce. Not very pleasant when you want to mix it in with rice and take big, satisfying mouthfuls (guilty).
A way to avoid having the occasional bone piece in your rice is to strain the sauce through a sieve/strainer just before step 5 above.
I admit, I’m too lazy to do this step but it’s a good one.
Glossy, sticky, sweet and savoury. In my opinion, ultimate Asian comfort food.
Chicken parts to use for this dish
This recipe works best with chicken drumsticks, thighs or wings, bones-in and skins-on. Breasts are not recommended as it’ll get really tough through the 30 minute simmering process.
Other Asian style chicken recipes you might like
Thank you for checking out my recipes! Let me know what you think and/or if you have any questions, drop me a note in the comments section below. 🙂
Soy sauce chicken
- 1½ kg / 3 lbs chicken drumsticks or thighs, bone-in, skin-on (note 1)
- 4 cm / 1½ inch ginger sliced
- 4 cloves garlic peeled, lightly smashed
- 2 scallion/spring onion cut into 5cm/2inch long
- ¼ cup dark soy sauce
- ⅓ cup light soy sauce
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup Shaoxing wine
- 2 tbsp neutral tasting oil such as canola or sunflower
- 1 tbsp cornstarch/cornflour
- ¼ cup cold water (note 2)
- In a large skillet or pot with a lid, saute ginger, garlic and white parts of scallions until golden. Reserve green parts of scallions.
- Add in chicken pieces and brown on high heat until skin golden and caramelised.
- Pour in Shaoxing wine and allow it to reduce by half on high heat.
- Pour in dark and light soy sauces, sugar, sesame oil and ¼ cup of water. Bring up to boil.
- Reduce heat to low and put a lid on, simmer for 30 minutes. Turn chicken pieces over every 10 minutes to allow even seasoning.
- Combine thickening mixture ingredients and mix thoroughly. Pour into pot and stir through on low heat.
- Sprinkle reserved green parts of scallions into the pot and mix through. This freshens up the dish.
- Serve with rice and sauteed Asian greens!