My childhood memories of Chinese soy sauce chicken revolve around my mom trekking to a deli in San Francisco Chinatown with me toddling by her side. There, she’d carefully point to a plump one hanging in the window, which would get chopped ferociously with a cleaver into manageable pieces, and wrapped up in a takeout box for our dinner that night.
At home, I’d help plug in the rice cooker for fresh steamed white rice, while my mom stir-fried some asparagus, bok choy or gai lan from the fridge. It was the makings for a quick, simple, and satisfying weeknight family meal.
Pineapple was not something she’d necessarily think to pair with it. But thankfully, food writer Cathy Erway, whose mother hails from pineapple-growing Taiwan, had that light-bulb moment. Because like Tom Cruise to Renee Zellweger in “Jerry Maguire,” pineapple completes soy sauce chicken.
The fresh juicy chunks add sweetness and tropical bright acidity, providing another level of flavor to the soy-caramelized chicken. After all, who among us doesn’t zero in on the pineapple pieces in a dish of sweet and sour pork, right? Best yet, Erway makes this complete dish in a sheet pan in the oven for utmost convenience.
“Mom’s Soy Sauce Chicken with Pineapple and Bok Choy” is from her new cookbook, “Sheet Pan Chicken: 50 Simple and Satisfying Ways to Cook Dinner” (Ten Speed Press). Erway, a Brooklyn-based James Beard Award-winning writer, has created 50 recipes for everyone’s favorite protein using the “it” method of laying it all on a sheet pan, sliding it into the oven, and forgetting about it until the timer goes off.
The recipes will open your eyes to all the sheet-pan possibilities, such as “Chicken Satay Lettuce Wraps,” “Roasted Romaine Chicken Caesar,” “Deconstructed Chicken-Eggplant Parm,” and “Nashville-Style Hot Chicken with Bacon Collard Greens.”
Although Erway doesn’t instruct to do so, I always line my rimmed baking sheet pan with aluminum foil first to make clean-up that much easier.
I used bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, but you can use whatever chicken pieces you like in this recipe.The chicken needs to marinade in a mixture of soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil and scallions for 12 to 24 hours, so just plan accordingly.
After that, you just arrange the chicken on the prepared baking sheet, along with fresh pineapple chunks, and baby bok choy. Although Erway’s recipe called for three baby bok choy, I doubled that amount, as noted below. Feel free to do so, if your baking sheet can accommodate the extra. You just want to be sure that all the ingredients are arrayed in one single layer on the pan.
In fact, this might very well be my new favorite way to cook bok choy. When you roast bok choy on high heat in the oven, the stalks get perfectly al dente and the leaves get papery crisp.
Just add some white, brown, sticky or fried rice — and you’ve got a comforting feast as easy as that.
Mom’s Soy Sauce Chicken with Pineapple and Bok Choy
For the marinade:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce (or an additional 2 tablespoons soy sauce)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
4 scallions, chopped
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
For rest of dish:
2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces
3 to 6 small heads baby bok choy, halved
2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as grapeseed
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
2 scallions, chopped
Store-bought chile crisp oil (optional)
Make the marinade: Combine the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, salt, white pepper, sesame oil, scallions, and ginger in an airtight container or zip-top bag.
Add the chicken to the marinade, cover the container or seal the bag, and marinate in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Combine the baby bok choy, 1 tablespoon of the neutral oil, and the salt on a sheet pan and toss to coat. Arrange the bok choy cut-side down. Toss the pineapple chunks with the remaining 1 tablespoon neutral oil and scatter the pineapple around the pan.
Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade, shaking off any excess, and arrange them on the sheet pan nestled among the bok choy and pineapple. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, then check on the bok choy, flip them or remove them from the sheet pan if they’re sufficiently crisped. Rotate the pan and roast for another 10 minutes, until a kitchen thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a piece registers 160 degrees.
Sprinkle with the scallions and chile crisp oil (if using) and serve.
Adapted from “Sheet Pan Chicken” by Cathy Erway
More Chinese-Style Chicken Recipes to Enjoy: Cranberry-Hoisin Chicken ‘N’ Rice by Ming Tsai
And: Three-Cup Chicken