Fragrant crispy Chinese Five-Spice Roast Chicken served with pepper salt. Perfect for Chinese New Year Reunion or a weekend dinner.
A chicken dish is a must-have for the Chinese New Year Eve reunion dinner. Typically, a whole chicken with the head and all is served to symbolize wholeness and prosperity. When I was a kid, the silky smooth Pak Cham Gai (in Cantonese dialect) or “white cut chicken” was very popular. This dish is similar to the silky smooth chicken in this popular Hainanese Chicken Rice post.
Most families will pre-order an organic chicken known in Malaysia as kampung or village chicken, for the purpose of preparing Pak Cham Gai. I remember one year, someone actually gave us a life chicken. Mom and aunt had to slaughter and prepare the chicken. Please use your imagination for the rest of the story. Suffice to say the dish wasn’t very popular with the kids that year.
Chinese Five-Spice Roast Chicken
An alternative to Pak Cham Gai is this Chinese Five-Spice Roast Chicken. Back in the old days, this roast chicken was a favorite at the Chinese 10-course wedding banquets. They would surround the whole roasted chicken with shrimp crackers and sliced cucumbers. There would be several small plates of pepper salt for diners to further flavor the chicken. This was one of the few dishes eaten with salt instead of soy sauce. Most kids enjoyed this dish and few were fazed with the chicken head. Thank goodness times have changed and that “garnish” is not a norm on the plate these days!
Chicken Preparation for Roasting
Some people like to marinate the chicken overnight with ginger, scallion, and Shao Hsing cooking wine. It is then drained, air dried, applied with a rub, and air dried again for several hours before roasting. The version I am showing you here is a simplified one where the chicken is placed on a beer can roaster so that it sits upright during roasting. The juices drip into the pan producing a chicken with crispy skin. The fragrant salt is easy to prepare and is good with most meats.
Below is a picture of the beer can roaster I used. You have the option of placing a can of beer or soda in the center to flavor the chicken and keep the meat moist. One of these days, I will give that a try.
Similar Tools Used in Making This Chinese Five-Spice Roast Chicken
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Chinese Five-Spice Roast Chicken
- 1 roasting chicken (3 to 4 lbs)
- 3 tsp sea salt
- 1½ tsp ground white pepper
- 1 tsp five-spice powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- Remove giblets and excessive fat from chicken. Rinse chicken including the inside. Pat dry the outside and place it on a beer can chicken roaster to drip dry for an hour.
- Pan fry sea salt and ground white pepper over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until fragrant.
- Combine half of the pan fried pepper salt, five-spice powder, and garlic powder in a small bowl. Reserve the other half of the pepper salt for serving.
- Remove chicken from the roaster and liberally sprinkle or pat mixture on the inside and outside of the chicken. Place chicken back onto roaster and allow it to dry for another hour.
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Truss chicken by tying the lower part of the wings and legs together.
- Roast chicken in pre-heated oven on the beer can roaster for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes or until thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone registers 180°F.
- Remove roasted chicken from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving.
- Serve chicken with slices of cucumber, shrimp crackers, and pepper salt.
If you do try this Chinese Five-Spice Roast Chicken, definitely reserve some of that fragrant pepper salt for dipping. It really does make the chicken tastes even more flavorful. It is also great with the cucumber slices.