chicken drumstick : 5 spice brine : crispy ginger fried rice : plum chili sauce

My first time cooking for a a fellow blogger’s project. Last night I prepped this dish as a submission for a fun cooking project at, with a few restrictions, this cooking challenge was very attractive, it forced me to leave my comfort zone and try some new flavors and explore chinese cuisine a bit. Base ingredients were: chicken, chillies, greens and nuts… 

Simple enough, right?  well, easier said than done, specially if using ingredients unfamiliar to you. I wanted t come up with a nice asian recipe of my own using staple chinese ingredients (the only thing I know about chinese cuisine is that is delicious!). Here is what I did:


1. Research staple ingredients online

I ended up here. Super helpful. Most of the ingredients were familiar, but I’ve never used plum sauce, chili paste or chinese fish sauce, but I wanted to integrate those into my dish if possible. I chose a few unfamiliar ones.

2. Research each ingredient in the context of a recipe online

Plenty of recipes online featuring chicken and chili paste, plum sauce and fish sauce, five spice powder, etc. This is getting exciting at this point. Exciting and overwhelming.

3. Select ingredients that would work when combined into a dish

I didn’t want to overcomplicate the dish, and my research yielded even more ingredients and more combinations of them, to the point where I needed to find common denominators that worked well and stop. No need to increase the odds of failure.

4. Buy ingredients

I live in Los Angeles, so finding the ingredients was super easy, I went to my local Ralph’s and was able to get everything there, but this can be trickier in other cities/countries I’m sure.

5. Taste each ingredient on its own

This was the funnest part, tasting chili paste for example, I don’t even like hot-spicey foods that much, I’m pretty sensitive to strong spices. The chili paste was so good! Spicy and full of other flavors! The fish sauce, that was the strongest fishiest saltiest thing I’ve ever had, I fell in love with it after one teaspoon. 5 spice powder, that reminded me of indian cuisine and garam masala mixes, it contains cinnamon, star anise, cloves, fennel seeds, peppers… and last but not least, plum sauce, delicious sweet and sour plum jam with ginger, salt and vinegar.

6. Based on their volume (intensity of flavor) come up with ratios

This is possibly the trickiest part. After having tasted chili sauce, plum sauce, chili paste, fish sauce and the 5 spice powder , all of which were delicious, I had to come up with how much of each ingredient to use, and how.

7. Plan your recipe by component

I wanted fried rice to go with my chicken, and I wanted some cilantro and parsley for garnishing. Those were the 3 components, so I wrote down roughly what I wanted to do with each one of them, how to cook them, how to flavor them, etc…

8. Plan your presentation

Having an idea of what a final plated dish looks like helps a lot. I drew some sketches, wrote down some notes, etc.. it really helps planing plating and choosing garnishes before you even go to the grocery store.

9. Get cooking

Always, prep ahead everything, this is key, specially when trying new things. I chopped veggies, mixed spices in little bowls, trimmed the drumsticks, made rice, and had everything lined up and ready to be used.

Below is a compilation of notes I wrote down for this dish, they might not make sense sometimes, but I didn’t want to alter them too much, it’s kind of fun to read them, and I sometimes didn’t or couldn’t do everything I had planned, like the drumsticks wouldn’t fit in the cream whipper (as weird as this sounds), so had to improvise a bit too. And it is not a recipe, but close enough:


Macro photography special edition, shanghai chicken for stefan:

Photography of final dish:

use cloth (darker than white stuff, yes)
take photo away from walls, bg shouldn’t compete and be darker
take macro photography as well of main dish

Prep (mise en place):

leeks (transversal cut extreme CU)
garlic (back light thin slices CU)
ginger (extreme CU, knife dicing ginger)
rice (macro photography of rice falling)
mirin (to deglace leeks and garlic) (macro photography super close up, oil and water splashing)
beat eggs, throw away half the white (high speed CU)
sugar + salt + pepper (need to food process more black pepper)
snow peas, open, peas in, steam in oven, brush with butter  (ECU, backlit?)
pistacchios or almonds, crushed (great ECU highspeed chopping)
shouldn’t overcook yolks, should remain a bit runny and bright yellow

drumsticks (frenched), cut bottom so they can sit up at a slight angle
Infused in 5 spice marinade with , rice vinegar and garlic, fish sauce, pepper, sugar
use Isi cream whipper to accelerate infusion (use plastic baggies)
prep plum sauce: tbsp plum sauce + 1 tbsp chili paste + 2 tsp fish sauce + 2 tbs rice vinager (ECU whipping this mix)
roast chicken drums, sitting up, 20 mins, brush with plum sauce, bake another 10 mins
roast sesame seeds until golden
sprinkle sesame seeds over chicken  (medium shot of tray, roasted legs being sprinkled)

Microwaved Greens:
prep soup plate, serin wrap
place leaves of cilantro and parsley over it
brush with peanut oil (ECU brush going over parsley)
microwave for 10-20 seconds or until crisp (ECU before and after would be nice)

Plating (should photograph progression step by step):
tsp of sesame oil on a plate
Spoon full of fried rice over it
Sit drumstick over rice
Butter snow peas, in, arrange nicely
Fried greens in, arrange nicely
finish with a drizzle of olive oil and some maldon salt
add a few drops of chili sauce over drops of olive oil
sprinkle chopped almonds


Until the next food project! Oh, I forgot, it was DELICIOUS! πŸ˜€

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  1. Wow. I mean WOW. You’ve really gone all out on this project. Great to see how everyone has his own approach. Your approach is methodical, well-prepared and thought through. I am not surprised it turned out delicious!

    1. extremely humbled and happy that you enjoyed the post. thanks for coming up with the exercise and putting in the time to get people excited about it and following up on everybody’s posts, that’s gotta be hard work! Plus I’ve been able to meet some new fellow bloggers and readers through this. super helpful.

    1. Thank you Susan! I’m so glad you like the photos. I will make sure I’ll add more photo tips to my next round of posts! I just got a new flash unit for my 5d, speedlite 430ex II, and I’m just getting used to it, it is different but I really like it πŸ™‚

  2. Yum. I adore plum sauce, though we almost always have it with duck. I will try it with chicken next time.

    Gorgeous photos. I like how you have Frenched the drumsticks. I’m not familiar with this method. What’s the main purpose? Is it to give it a cute little handle or is mostly for the height?

    1. Thank you! really appreciate your nice comments. I love duck, can only imagine how good it is with plum sauce πŸ™‚ Regarding frenching, that just serves mainly 2 purposes, one being like you say, it provides a handler, no greasy fingers sort of thing, the other, presentation. Frenching is probably more useful with bigger things, like say, a leg of lamb.

      1. Thank you so much …. and welcome to my world.
        Your post about something so “simple” as chicken drumsticks … just blow me away – everything about the post. Your passion hit me.

    1. ahhh! haha thank you! I love asian food, I don’t know much about it other than having eating it a LOT because it is so tasty. Specially chinese food, thai and indonesian, of course, I love japanese food as well. I’m so glad you approve!

  3. Dear me, Paul. You and Stefan are both culinary genius(es) (I stand in awe!). The seeds in the dish caught my eye, and the lovely texture of the meat,at well. Brilliant photo collage towards the end of hte post. Do hope you are finding new friends and new places to dine or drink in Canada. My very best to you. -Shanna

    1. Thank so much Shanna, As always you’re too nice. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post, this was a while ago, and I do remember Stefan’s challenge, and putting in some work to post something that could be fun and educational for myself. I had rarely used any chinese ingredient in the past, and today, I find myself using chinese ingredients and techniques more and more frequently. I love Stefan’s blog and have learned an incredible amount form him. I am enjoying my time in Vancouver, and there are so many nice places to eat and drink, and I love the markets and all the ingredients are of incredible quality. Take care Shanna!

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