“I want to do Three Cup Chicken.” I said. “Oh yeah, I love that dish. I think it will work very well with the hot pot”, the manager of Simmer Huang agreed. But when I looked over to the girls sitting opposite us, there was a puzzle look on their faces. “Three cup what?!” Oops! I should have explained what the dish was before they thought I was making smutty innuendos. Awkward.
It all started when Simmer Huang restaurant asked me to be their ambassador and create a signature dish to put on their simmering hot pot menu. If you are not familiar with Simmer Huang, then please allow me to explain and tantalise your tastebud. According to the Simmer Huang CEO Gen Huang, “simmer” style of cooking was the basis of the most popular dishes at royal feasts and dinner parties for the Emperor. I think most foodies who came from a Chinese background will agree with me, my mum always nag me for eating so much unhealthy spicy or deep fried food outside, so she will prepare simpler, cleaner food for me at home and usually the dishes are either braised, steamed or simmered. For me, simmering always associates with comfort food, the food is gently cooked in hot broth, locking in all the nutrition and the dish tends to have more flavours.
Did you know, Simmer Huang is actually quite an institution in China with over 600 shops around the world?! Don’t believe me? Click on this link and look at the google map yourself. Simmer Huang now has four branches in Sydney (CBD, Hurtsville, Eastwood and Chatswood) and one in Melbourne. A little birdie told me that they are planning to have another one in Melbourne and also Adelaide in 2016!
Simmer Huang in Chatswood is definitely worth a visit. Located at the new food hub Chatswood Interchange on level 3, the restaurant is spacious with swanky, deep rich red decor. It is also the first Simmer Huang with a licensed cocktail bar. The cocktail menu is nothing like you’ve seen before and absurdly delicious.
Many of the cocktails were taken inspirations from Chinese, Japanese and Korean alcohol like sake, rice wine and Japanese whiskey. The cocktails are fun and actually reminded me of my childhood. For e.g., Under the Hawthorn Tree is a concoction using Japanese Hibiki 12yo whiskey, Chinese hawthorn sugar, hibiscus tea and garnished with haw flakes! The Bubbling Asian is a cocktail using Korean sweet fermented Makgeolli rice wine, Calpis soda and topped with a stick of blushing pink mochi balls! To the more absurd, Milky Way is peanut soup with Disaronno Amaretto and white Sambuca served in a bowl, with Chinese “yiew tiao” bread stick to dip in it. I guess you just have to order it and give it a try.
Now, let’s talk about the Three Cup Chicken. San Bei Ji (三杯鸡) in Chinese is a popular dish in Taiwan but it is actually originated from the Jiangxi province of Southern China. There are many theories why the dish is called ‘Three Cup Chicken’, often relates to the cooking method by adding three cups of sauces to the chicken and simmered in a claypot. For each chicken, a cup each of soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil are added. However, can you imagine by adding a whole cup of sesame oil to the dish? It will be way too overpowering. This dish had been modified and revised over the decades and nowadays, there are so many versions out there and each has its own merit. I particularly love the heat from the ginger and the fragrant of the basil leaves added to the dish.
This dish has always been a favourite of mine, so I have developed a recipe that will work exceptionally well with the innovative cooking method at Simmer Huang and their special ‘secret’ sauce. (p/s: Trust me, I asked what the secret sauce is, they won’t tell me either!) Here at Simmer Huang, you will get to try my own version of the Three Cup Chicken, prepared right in front of you by your designated waiter so you can just sit back and be mesmerised by the hot pot simmering away with that herbaceous “secret” sauce smell wafting through the air. As much as you wan’t to lift the lid and have a peek inside the hot pot, well DON’T! It will only take approximately 10-15 minutes to cook and soon enough the dish is ready for your to dig in.
Protein or seafood have always been considered luxurious items in Chinese cuisine. That’s why Chinese families love feasting on an extravagant dinner banquet during special occasions with many meaty dishes and finishes with a staple like fried rice or noodles towards the end of the meal. Same as any hot pot or steamboat restaurants including Simmer Huang, you will enjoy cooking and devouring all the seafood and meat in the hot broth first and then maybe ordering noodles or eggs later as filler.
Whatever you do, make sure you order the hand-pulled noodle here at Simmer Huang to complete your meal. It’s a must! Once you have finished or even half-finished the Three Cup Chicken hot pot, the waiter will come to pour hot stock into the pot and let it boil. Then she will pull and stretch a piece of dough into a long strip of noodle and adding it to the pot. It doesn’t take long to cook and soon you will be rewarded with chewy noodle that is soul satisfying.
Needless to say, I had a go myself at stretching the noodle and it was actually super fun! If you think you can stretch the noodle longer than the waitress, I dare you to give it a go at any Simmer Huang restaurant between 19th December 2015 – 2nd January 2016, and you can actually score yourself some free noodles! Make sure to take a selfie, totally Instagram worthy.
Last but not least, thanks to Simmer Huang for this opportunity. I hope you get to go to Simmer Huang soon and give my Three Cup Chicken a try. The dish will be on the special menu until early February 2016. So go and do your Christmas shopping in Chatswood and then stop by at Simmer Huang for some cocktails and a delicious meal.
Tell them I sent you!