I don’t remember much from my early childhood in Canton, China, but oh how I remember the food. Poached chicken with ginger scallion dipping sauce was always a staple at family gatherings, and I’d hoard the sauce to eat over rice or toss with noodles (a tasty alternative for vegetarians!). After we moved to the U.S., my mom would still make this dish often because it was quick and inexpensive comfort food. And, lucky for me, Nick quickly mastered it for whenever he needs to get back on my good side ; )
To me, the beauty of this sauce is in its 4-ingredient simplicity. Raw ginger has a kick to it and scallions have that onion-y bite. When combined with sizzling oil and some salt, the flavors balance each other out nicely. Poached chicken might sound like the blandest thing on earth, but here it serves as a juicy canvas for the sauce (read below for tips on perfect poaching).
Today’s post is a slightly healthier modification of this traditional Cantonese favorite. Typically, the dish involves a whole poached chicken, and the sauce is very oily and salty, with ginger and just the white parts of scallions. My mom’s version subs in grapeseed oil (in a much reduced amount), and we use skinless chicken breasts or thighs. After poaching, you also end up with a light chicken broth with hints of the aromatics – it’s soothing to sip, or you can repurpose it in other dishes!
Cantonese Ginger Scallion Oil / Sauce
1 cup chopped scallions (both the green and white parts from 1-2 bunches)**
1 / 2 cup peeled, minced fresh ginger**
1 / 4 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 teaspoon salt; more to taste, only if needed
** I started using a food processor, which reduces ginger & scallion chopping time down to 2 minutes! I use and love this Cuisinart set with multiple attachments. With a food processor, be sure not to over-process / chop the scallions too finely otherwise the sauce won’t have any texture.
Step 1: Put the chopped scallions and minced ginger (with the ginger on the top, so the hot oil will sear away some of its spiciness) into a heatproof bowl and sprinkle the salt on top.
Step 2: Heat the grapeseed oil in a skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat, then pour it into the bowl, letting the oil sizzle over the other ingredients. Mix well; the ginger and scallions will emit some water as everything settles. I usually let the sauce sit at room temperature for up to an hour so the flavors meld thoroughly.
You can then toss this mixture with noodles (love it with flat egg noodles) and serve with a fried egg on top, or follow the steps below to serve with chicken! We added a little side of veggies and rice topped with garlic chips.
Perfectly poached chicken breasts:
1 lb chicken (using 1 large boneless skinless breast here)
2-3 ginger slices and the white ends of scallions
water to cover the chicken
salt to taste (if you’ll be drinking the broth)
Step 1: Put chicken into a lidded pot just large enough to hold it and the aromatics. Add just enough cold water to cover everything.
Step 2: Bring the water to a boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
Step 3: Cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let stand for 30 minutes without opening the lid. Remove the chicken from the pot after the 30 minutes (test doneness with a food thermometer if you have one), slice, and serve.
For a light chicken broth with a hint of ginger, skim the foam and impurities off the top of the poaching broth and add salt to taste. Enjoy!