Francis Ang’s Soy Sauce Chicken with Star Anise and Orange Peel
Think of this as the harmonious marriage of Chinese soy sauce chicken and Filipino chicken adobo.
“Soy Sauce Chicken with Star Anise and Orange Peel” is from Chef Francis Ang of San Francisco’s Abaca restaurant.
No wonder it has elements of both when this family recipe was conceived by his China-born grandmother when she was living in the Philippines.
The recipe was published recently in the Wall St. Journal’s “Slow Food Fast” column, in which notable chefs from around the country contribute a series of home cook-friendly recipes that spotlight their heritage and cooking styles.
You may fear that chef recipes are typically way too complicated and fussy. Not this one. It couldn’t be easier.
The recipe calls for bone-in, skin-on chicken legs, which means the drumsticks connected to thighs.
Four of them get braised on the stovetop in soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar and water. A whole head of garlic, cut in half, goes in, as well, along with the peel from a clementine or mandarin orange, star anise, bay leaves, and whole black peppercorns.
The recipe instructed that the chicken will cook in about 20 minutes. I found it took more like 35 minutes, so I noted that in the recipe below. You could always stick an instant-read thermometer into a leg. If it registers 165 to 170 degrees internally, you are good to go.
By the time the chicken cooks, the braising liquid will have reduced a bit, turning a rich mahogany color.
Roast cauliflower florets in the oven, and steam some rice, as accompaniments.
The chicken is as succulent as can be in a pool of sweet, salty, tangy, citrusy, and cinnamon-y sauce. It’s like Chinese soy sauce chicken in that it has a homey taste full of umami. And it’s like Filipino adobo because of its measured vinegary taste. With the lovely taste of orange from the clementine rind, this is a dish loaded with depth and complexity.
The roasted cauliflower is a perfect foil with its crisp texture, and toasty taste and caramelized sweetness. The rice is a must-have to act as a sponge to soak up all that delicious braising sauce that’s as addictive as it gets.
Soy Sauce Chicken with Star Anise and Orange Peel
5 tablespoons canola oil
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken legs (drumsticks with thighs attached)
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 whole head garlic, halved crosswise
Peel from 1 clementine or mandarin orange
3 whole star anise
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
6 bay leaves
1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
White rice (optional)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Set a wide, heavy pot over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons canola oil. Add chicken legs, skin-side down, and sear until skin is golden brown, about 5 minutes. If necessary, sear in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot. Set seared chicken legs aside, skin-side up on a plate.
As soon as the chicken is done searing, add soy sauce, vinegar, water, brown sugar, garlic, mandarin, peel, star anise, peppercorns and bay leaves to the pot, and stir to combine, taking care as the liquid may initially bubble and splatter when it first hits the hot pot. Return chicken legs to pot, skin-side up and simmer over steady medium heat until sauce thickens and chicken becomes very tender, about 20 to 35 minutes. Use an instant-read thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of the chicken is 165 to 170 degrees.
Toss cauliflower florets with remaining canola oil and season with salt. Spread cauliflower across a roasting tray and bake until caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes.
Let chicken rest in pot at least 10 minutes. Serve chicken with sauce spooned over top and roasted cauliflower and white rice alongside. Garnish with scallions.
Adapted from Francis Ang’s recipe in the Wall St. Journal, Feb. 7, 2023
More: A Visit to Abaca