White Cut Chicken with Ginger Scallion Sauce (白切鸡姜葱酱)

Learn how to make this classic Cantonese chicken dish, a must-have for Chinese holidays and celebrations!

Prep Time
25 min
Total Time
60 min
Yields
6 servings

A Recipe by Daddy Lau

My dad's been cooking Chinese food for over 50 years - as a kid fending for himself in Guangzhou, as the head chef of his own restaurant, and as a loving father in our home.

Hopefully, by learning this recipe, you'll get to experience some of the delicious joy we felt growing up eating his food!

- Randy

Today, Daddy Lau will be teaching us his recipe for white cut chicken (白切鸡), or bak chit gai (姜葱酱) in Cantonese, along with his deliciously addictive ginger scallion sauce to pair with it.

He’ll also be teaching us the art of how to carve a chicken once it’s cooked, which is a traditional skill that I’ve always wanted to learn and pass on to my kids one day.

Chicken's many meanings and symbols

In Chinese tradition, chicken is intertwined with many sayings and superstitions of good fortune, wealth, and resilience.

Even though my parents didn't have much meat growing up, this is one of the dishes my parents always ate on Lunar New Year's eve and other festivities.

Especially with auspicious foods, Chinese superstition involves a lot of creative word-play. The word for chicken, gāi in Cantonese and jī in Mandarin, sounds like several words of good fortune.

Just to name a few phrases that my parents shared with us:

  • hóu sai gaai 好世界 - A Cantonese phrase that roughly translates to good world, good life.
  • dàjídàlì 大吉大利 - A Mandarin phrase that roughly translates to great luck, great profit.
  • yáuh tàuh yáuh méih 有头有尾 - A Cantonese phrase that literally translates to: "has a head, has a tail." It means "good beginning, good ending." This is one of the reasons why it's important to make a whole chicken for Lunar New Year.
  • jáau pàh jáau wàh 抓扒抓鏵 - A Toisanese phrase, related to eating the chicken legs, that roughly means "face all challenges with persistence."

So, basically, eat a whole chicken if you want to live.

Ingredients

Weight: US
oz
g
Volume: US
cup
mL
Servings
6
    Main Ingredients
  • 4 lb whole chicken (

    traditionally for Lunar New Year, the chicken has its head & feet intact

    )
  • 2 oz green onion
  • 1.5 oz ginger
  • 5 tbsp corn oil
  • Additional Flavor & Seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt (

    for boiling water

    )
  • 2 tsp salt (

    for ginger scallion sauce

    )
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil

Using a Proper Knife

The most intricate part of this recipe is the last step, where we carve up the chicken into pieces we can easily grab with a chopstick.

My dad has two knives - a "chef's knife", meant for vegetables and boneless meats, and a heavy duty cleaver, meant for occasions like this.

It's a lot harder to do this without a proper cleaver, so I've linked to a few options:

If you don't have one, you can also try cutting at the various joints, which my dad didn't demonstrate but said is possible.

You'll also want a thick wooden cutting board, which helps absorb the impact of forceful chopping.

If you're not familiar with Chinese knives, my dad and I did an entire interview on the basics. Also, you can check out our blog post that expands on what we talked about.

Choosing a Chicken

As we mentioned before, if you're making this for Lunar New Year and following Chinese tradition, you'll need to buy a chicken that has its head, feet, toes, etc. intact.

The two main types that my dad uses are "Yellow Hair Chicken" and "Kwai Fei Chicken".

  • Yellow Hair Chicken tends to have more chewy meat. Many Chinese people prefer this.
  • Kwai Fei Chicken tends to have a larger quantity of meat on it, with thicker meat that's more tender.

For this specific recipe, my dad got hooked up by his old restaurant with their wholesale pricing, but you can usually buy these at an Asian grocery store or market.

If you don't have access to an Asian grocery store, you can just buy as fresh and whole of a chicken as you can get, and try to stick to a chicken that's around 4 pounds so it cooks more evenly in the pot.

The fresher the chicken, the better. And, if you can, buy it sustainably.

Sourcing Chicken Sustainably

The most environmentally friendly (and freshest) way to source chicken is to raise your own, just like my parents did back in the day.

Obviously, that’s not easy for most of us, so some options would be to shop with a local farm or butcher, or to buy Animal Welfare Certified chicken.

Amongst the strongest seals of approvals is the Animal Welfare Certified label from the Global Animal Partnership, a non profit originally created by Whole Foods Market in 2008.

This is one of only 3 food certification labels endorsed by the ASPCA, one of the oldest and largest humane societies in the world, the others being “Certified Humane” and “Animal Welfare Approved.” Although they’re not as widespread, they set much higher standards than the more common USDA Organic certifications.

If you live in the US and feel inclined to support these causes, you can look for GAP certified meat at Whole Foods, or through Butcher Box, a popular meat delivery subscription service that sources their meats in line with all of the highest standards that we’ve touched on.

Finding Asian Ingredients

Some of these ingredients are hard to find in a typical grocery store.

If you don't live near an Asian market, most or all of what my dad uses in this recipe can be found on Amazon:

I've also included some other Chinese kitchen essentials, used in many of my dad's other recipes.

These links are affiliate links, which means that if you use our links to purchase these ingredients, Amazon pays my family a small amount for the sale - at no extra cost to you. If you use these links, we really appreciate the support!

Alternatives to Oyster Sauce

If you're vegetarian or need to stay away from gluten, we have three alternatives for you!

Vegetarian Oyster Sauce

Since oyster sauce is made out of oyster extract, here are some alternatives that have a similar taste without using the actual oyster:

Gluten Free Oyster Sauce

Wok Mei has a gluten-free oyster sauce, but it still contains oyster extract, so it's not vegetarian friendly.

Vegetarian + Gluten Free Oyster Sauce

Unfortunately, we don't know of a vendor that sells an oyster sauce that caters to both dietary restrictions, so you'll need to DIY the sauce.

Mix equal parts gluten free soy sauce and gluten free hoisin sauce. This isn't exactly the same as oyster sauce, but it's pretty close.

Other Notes

In our video, I mentioned that we have an industrial grade infrared thermometer. Ken, my soon-to-be brother-in-law, also an engineer, got one for me for Christmas because he kept watching me ask my dad how hot his wok gets. Thanks Ken!

If you want to nerd out like us, here's a link to get your own: https://amzn.to/3bSkebB

Set the stove to high heat and start boiling a generous amount of water in the pot you'll be using.

We'll want to be able to fully submerge our chicken in the water to make sure it cooks evenly.

We'll also be adding 1 teaspoon of salt. My dad says not to add too much here.

Wait for the water to come to a boil.

We'll be doing a couple of things in this step, mostly to ensure that the entire chicken is cooked evenly for maximum tenderness.

  • Pierce a hole in the skin in the neck - This helps the water flow through the chicken cavity to help it cook more evenly.
  • Stretch the legs away from the body several times - This helps to avoid having a big clump of chicken meat that's undercooked.
  • Slowly dip the chicken 3 times in the boiling water - This helps even out the temperatures on the inside of the cavity and on the exterior of the chicken. Make sure the water is already boiling before you do this.
  • Add the chicken and make sure it's completely submerged - If you have to add more boiling water, do it.

From here, we'll cover the pot.

Here's a rough heat / timing overview:

  • Once the pot's been covered, leave it on high heat for 5 minutes as the water comes to a boil again.
  • Lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for another 35-40 minutes. The larger the chicken, the longer you cook it. The sweet spot is 4 pounds.
  • Check if it's done. If so, transfer it to an ice bath. (More on both of these later.)

While we wait for the chicken to cook, we'll start on our sauce by mincing our green onions (2 oz) and ginger (1.5 oz)​.

My dad said the exact ratio and raw amounts don't really matter too much. Most recipes I've seen use more green onion than ginger.

Having a surplus of sauce is a great problem to have, since you can use it on pretty much everything. (I LOVE dousing my rice and vegetables in this addictive sauce)

For the green onions, we'll be using the white stems (about 4 stems at the default serving size). Cut each stem in half, length-wise, and then into strips. Then, mince the strips into fine pieces.

For the ginger, we'll be cutting them into thin slices, strips, and then fine pieces.

One little detail is that my dad is using separate plates to hold the green onions and ginger. The ginger will be cooked first in the next step, so this makes it easier to just pour all of the ginger in at once.

Also, feel free to use a food processor here instead of mincing.

We'll heat up our wok on high heat and add corn oil (5 tbsp).

The oil should be around 350-400F before we add the ginger.

This is where my infrared thermometer really shines, but a good visual cue is to wait until the oil starts "shimmering", or forming ripples across the surface due to the heat.

Why do we do this? By cooking everything in oil, we unlock the aromatics of the ginger and green onion.

Once the oil is hot enough, add the ginger and cook for about 15 seconds before adding the green onions. Cook everything for another 20-30 seconds before transferring the sauce to a bowl.

We'll add salt (2 tsp) and sesame oil (1 tbsp) to the bowl, and mix for 30-60 seconds.

Do a taste test. If it's not salty enough, feel free to add more.

My dad emphasized multiple times how important it is to add sesame oil here, so make sure you don't skip it.

Grab a big bowl and dump a few handfuls of ice into it. Fill it roughly halfway with cold water.

The ice bath is very important - once the chicken is done cooking, we need to immediately cool it down.

Why is this so important?

  • It helps the meat contract and locks the juices inside - If we skip this step, juices will flood out as we chop the chicken into pieces.
  • It helps the skin stay attached - Without this step, we'll have a bunch of loose pieces of skin everywhere.
  • It gives the skin a bit more of a chewy texture

Once the time draws near, we can uncover the pot. Poke the thickest part of the chicken (around the thigh) deeply with a chopstick.

If blood or red fluid leaks out, we need to cook it for a few more minutes.

If the fluid is clear, it's ready for the ice bath.

Feel free to use your newfound chicken broth however you'd like. In the video, my dad created two additional dishes (a soup and a veggie) out of it by boiling bok choy with some ginger.

Carefully take two chopsticks under the chicken wings, and lift it over the pot.

Suspend it over the pot for 30-45 seconds to let some of the residual water drip out.

Then, carefully transfer it into the ice bath. Prepare for a splash!

Let the chicken sit in the bath for 5 minutes, occasionally pouring water over the surface of the chicken and rotating the chicken in the container.

This could honestly be its own blog post, but for now it will live in a very detailed step in this recipe.

This is a lot easier to follow in our YouTube video, where we dedicate about 6 minutes of time to this segment.

There are a few things to keep in mind before you start.

  • My dad’s done this hundreds of times, and it took him about 10 minutes from start to finish. It’ll probably take a lot longer if you’re a beginner like me, but the main thing is just to make sure your cleaver is sharp and that you’re moving carefully and deliberately. 
  • If you don’t already have a cleaver, it’s still technically possible, but I highly recommend getting one if you plan on making this dish. We've included links to a few great options:
  • For easier, safer cutting, you should use a larger, thicker cutting board that’s preferably made of wood, and you should place a moist towel underneath it to increase its stability.

How to plate, according to Chinese tradition:

  • Basically everything is plated - even parts that aren't readily edible like the head.
  • Each piece of chicken is laid out on a large plate according to where it was on its body, head to toe, right to left.
  • You'll often see this served on a large oval-shaped plate.

Order of operations:

  • Cut off the neck and feet, cut into small pieces
  • Cut and place the head and butt at opposite ends of the middle axis of the plate
  • Remove the wings and thighs
  • Cut and split the torso into two halves (front and back)
  • Split the back in half, and cut it into pieces
  • Cut and pry away the breast bone, and cut it into pieces
  • Cut the thighs and wings into small pieces

Cutting techniques:

  • A technique my dad uses a lot involves making a shallow slice to wedge the cleaver, and then hitting down on the blade with our palm to drive the blade through the bone. 
  • In our recent knife skills interview, my dad talked about the 3 different parts of the blade - the root, the belly, and the tip. When chopping through bone, he always makes contact with the root, or the part of the blade closest to the handle. 

When I first started Made With Lau, documenting how my dad carves a chicken was high on the list of traditions I wanted to learn and share. There are lots of different ways to cut a whole chicken, but it always feels like I’m watching an artist at work when I see my dad gracefully chop and plate everything. 

Every cut has an intention, and every piece has a place. Almost everything goes on the plate, and nothing is wasted. Especially for Lunar New Year and other celebrations, bak chit gai is meant to be one of the main decorative centerpieces on the dinner table, and carving it up into beautiful bite-sized pieces is an honor that I hope to take on one day for my own family. 

Summary

White Cut Chicken with Ginger Scallion Sauce (白切鸡姜葱酱)
Learn how to make this classic Cantonese chicken dish, a must-have for Chinese holidays and celebrations!
  • Prep Time: 25 min
  • Total Time: 60 min
  • Yield: 6 servings
    Main Ingredients
  • 4 lb whole chicken (

    traditionally for Lunar New Year, the chicken has its head & feet intact

    )
  • 2 oz green onion
  • 1.5 oz ginger
  • 5 tbsp corn oil
  • Additional Flavor & Seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt (

    for boiling water

    )
  • 2 tsp salt (

    for ginger scallion sauce

    )
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
Step 1 - Boil water, add salt↑ Jump to details

Set the stove to high heat and start boiling a generous amount of water in the pot you'll be using.

We'll want to be able to fully submerge our chicken in the water to make sure it cooks evenly.

We'll also be adding 1 teaspoon of salt. My dad says not to add too much here.

Step 2 - Prepare & cook chicken↑ Jump to details
  • Wait for the water to come to a boil.

We'll be doing a couple of things in this step, mostly to ensure that the entire chicken is cooked evenly for maximum tenderness.

  • Pierce a hole in the skin in the neck - This helps the water flow through the chicken cavity to help it cook more evenly.
  • Stretch the legs away from the body several times - This helps to avoid having a big clump of chicken meat that's undercooked.
  • Slowly dip the chicken 3 times in the boiling water - This helps even out the temperatures on the inside of the cavity and on the exterior of the chicken. Make sure the water is already boiling before you do this.
  • Add the chicken and make sure it's completely submerged - If you have to add more boiling water, do it.

From here, we'll cover the pot.

Here's a rough heat / timing overview:

  • Once the pot's been covered, leave it on high heat for 5 minutes as the water comes to a boil again.
  • Lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for another 35-40 minutes. The larger the chicken, the longer you cook it. The sweet spot is 4 pounds.
  • Check if it's done. If so, transfer it to an ice bath. (More on both of these later.)

Step 3 - Mince scallions and ginger↑ Jump to details

While we wait for the chicken to cook, we'll start on our sauce by mincing our green onions (2 oz) and ginger (1.5 oz)​.

My dad said the exact ratio and raw amounts don't really matter too much. Most recipes I've seen use more green onion than ginger.

Having a surplus of sauce is a great problem to have, since you can use it on pretty much everything. (I LOVE dousing my rice and vegetables in this addictive sauce)

For the green onions, we'll be using the white stems (about 4 stems at the default serving size). Cut each stem in half, length-wise, and then into strips. Then, mince the strips into fine pieces.

For the ginger, we'll be cutting them into thin slices, strips, and then fine pieces.

One little detail is that my dad is using separate plates to hold the green onions and ginger. The ginger will be cooked first in the next step, so this makes it easier to just pour all of the ginger in at once.

Also, feel free to use a food processor here instead of mincing.

Step 4 - Heat oil, cook ginger scallions↑ Jump to details

We'll heat up our wok on high heat and add corn oil (5 tbsp).

The oil should be around 350-400F before we add the ginger.

This is where my infrared thermometer really shines, but a good visual cue is to wait until the oil starts "shimmering", or forming ripples across the surface due to the heat.

Why do we do this? By cooking everything in oil, we unlock the aromatics of the ginger and green onion.

Once the oil is hot enough, add the ginger and cook for about 15 seconds before adding the green onions. Cook everything for another 20-30 seconds before transferring the sauce to a bowl.

Step 5 - Flavor the sauce↑ Jump to details

We'll add salt (2 tsp) and sesame oil (1 tbsp) to the bowl, and mix for 30-60 seconds.

Do a taste test. If it's not salty enough, feel free to add more.

My dad emphasized multiple times how important it is to add sesame oil here, so make sure you don't skip it.

Step 6 - Prepare an ice bath↑ Jump to details

Grab a big bowl and dump a few handfuls of ice into it. Fill it roughly halfway with cold water.

The ice bath is very important - once the chicken is done cooking, we need to immediately cool it down.

Why is this so important?

  • It helps the meat contract and locks the juices inside - If we skip this step, juices will flood out as we chop the chicken into pieces.
  • It helps the skin stay attached - Without this step, we'll have a bunch of loose pieces of skin everywhere.
  • It gives the skin a bit more of a chewy texture
Step 7 - Determine if the chicken is done↑ Jump to details

Once the time draws near, we can uncover the pot. Poke the thickest part of the chicken (around the thigh) deeply with a chopstick.

If blood or red fluid leaks out, we need to cook it for a few more minutes.

If the fluid is clear, it's ready for the ice bath.

Feel free to use your newfound chicken broth however you'd like. In the video, my dad created two additional dishes (a soup and a veggie) out of it by boiling bok choy with some ginger.

Step 8 - Lift and transfer to ice bath↑ Jump to details

Carefully take two chopsticks under the chicken wings, and lift it over the pot.

Suspend it over the pot for 30-45 seconds to let some of the residual water drip out.

Then, carefully transfer it into the ice bath. Prepare for a splash!

Let the chicken sit in the bath for 5 minutes, occasionally pouring water over the surface of the chicken and rotating the chicken in the container.

Step 9 - Carve the chicken↑ Jump to details
  • This could honestly be its own blog post, but for now it will live in a very detailed step in this recipe.

This is a lot easier to follow in our YouTube video, where we dedicate about 6 minutes of time to this segment.

There are a few things to keep in mind before you start.

  • My dad’s done this hundreds of times, and it took him about 10 minutes from start to finish. It’ll probably take a lot longer if you’re a beginner like me, but the main thing is just to make sure your cleaver is sharp and that you’re moving carefully and deliberately. 
  • If you don’t already have a cleaver, it’s still technically possible, but I highly recommend getting one if you plan on making this dish. We've included links to a few great options:
  • For easier, safer cutting, you should use a larger, thicker cutting board that’s preferably made of wood, and you should place a moist towel underneath it to increase its stability.

How to plate, according to Chinese tradition:

  • Basically everything is plated - even parts that aren't readily edible like the head.
  • Each piece of chicken is laid out on a large plate according to where it was on its body, head to toe, right to left.
  • You'll often see this served on a large oval-shaped plate.

Order of operations:

  • Cut off the neck and feet, cut into small pieces
  • Cut and place the head and butt at opposite ends of the middle axis of the plate
  • Remove the wings and thighs
  • Cut and split the torso into two halves (front and back)
  • Split the back in half, and cut it into pieces
  • Cut and pry away the breast bone, and cut it into pieces
  • Cut the thighs and wings into small pieces

Cutting techniques:

  • A technique my dad uses a lot involves making a shallow slice to wedge the cleaver, and then hitting down on the blade with our palm to drive the blade through the bone. 
  • In our recent knife skills interview, my dad talked about the 3 different parts of the blade - the root, the belly, and the tip. When chopping through bone, he always makes contact with the root, or the part of the blade closest to the handle. 

When I first started Made With Lau, documenting how my dad carves a chicken was high on the list of traditions I wanted to learn and share. There are lots of different ways to cut a whole chicken, but it always feels like I’m watching an artist at work when I see my dad gracefully chop and plate everything. 

Every cut has an intention, and every piece has a place. Almost everything goes on the plate, and nothing is wasted. Especially for Lunar New Year and other celebrations, bak chit gai is meant to be one of the main decorative centerpieces on the dinner table, and carving it up into beautiful bite-sized pieces is an honor that I hope to take on one day for my own family. 

Step 10 - Take pictures
Whip out your camera (1). Begin taking photos (1,000,000). Pick your favorites!
Step 11 - Share and tag us on Instagram @madewithlau #madewithlau!
Did you have fun making this recipe? We'd love to see & hear about it. (Especially my dad. He would be THRILLED!)

Enjoy!

I have so many memories eating this with my family, especially during all of our epic holiday feasts and Chinese banquets.

Now, hopefully, you can create your own memories with this tradition with your loved ones.

Also, I cordially invite you to eat with us and learn more about the dish, Chinese culture, and hang out with our adorable son. We get into a lot of detail about Chinese symbolism and superstitions, and what life was like for my parents growing up in China.

Cheers, and thanks for cooking with us!

Feel free to comment below if you have any questions about the recipe.