Vietnamese Tea Smoked Chicken is an immensely popular and treasured meal nationwide. Usually reserved for special occasions, this uniquely Vietnamese dish will amaze you with its succulent texture and distinct flavor.
Vietnamese Tea Smoked Chicken Recipe-
- One whole chicken, 4 lb. (buy a hen, they are more tender than roosters, and get “free-range” chicken if you can, too)
- 1 tbsp. Szechuan peppercorns
- 2 tbsp. kosher salt
- 6 sliced rounds of peeled fresh ginger root, smashed
- 4 green onions, trimmed and rough chopped
- 5 2” to 3” long strips of tangerine peel, cut into little pieces
- 3 cinnamon sticks cut into little pieces
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup uncooked rice
- 1/3 cup green or black tea, or both, mixed together
You will need: Chinese steamer (or equivalent steaming implement)
- Wash and clean the chicken thoroughly and, using your fingers, starting where the neck was cut off, pry up the edge of the skin, prod, lift, and separate the skin from the breasts, taking care not to break the skin. Once the skin has been loosened all over the breast meat, (or at least as far as you can), set the bird aside.
- In a wok or deep and heavy skillet over medium low heat, toast the Szechuan peppercorns and salt for about 4 or 5 minutes until the peppercorns are starting to smoke and the salt has discolored from white to a beige color. Using a mortar and pestle, grind and mash them together into a powder.
- Rub two-thirds of the salt-peppercorn powder all over the chicken, and get some under the skin and all over the breast meat as well. Place the chicken in a large bowl, cover, and keep refrigerated overnight.
- The next day, take the chicken out and let it sit long enough to be at room temperature.
- Set up a Chinese steamer with water to boil.
- Place the chicken, green onion, and ginger in a bowl of suitable size to fit in the steamer, and steam the chicken for up to 40 minutes, until where you can poke the thighs with a fork or knife tip and the juices run a very light pink—not at all bloody. Start checking on it after 30 minutes.
- Turn the burner off, take the lid off, and allow the chicken to cool naturally—it will still be cooking.
- Put the chicken back into the refrigerator for 1 or even 2 days before you smoke it.
- Before you smoke your chicken, again allow it to return to room temperature.
- Using a wok or large pot, line the inside with aluminum foil. Mix the tangerine peel, rice, sugar, cinnamon, and tea together well, and place the mixture in the center of the bottom of your wok or pot. Put a rack over the smoking mixture, so the chicken will sit about an inch above the mixture.
- Place the chicken, breast side down, on the rack. The reason for this is, during the smoking, the rich juices from the dark meat will be draining down through the white breast meat, making the white meat nice and juicy.
- Cover the wok or pot with a foil-lined lid and raise the heat to high. As soon as smoke starts seeping out from under the lid, turn the heat down to medium-high, or to where faint wisps of smoke are still seeping out. Smoke for 20 minutes, until the chicken is a rich, deep brown, almost blackened. If 20 minutes doesn’t do it, add some more sugar and rice to the smoking mixture and smoke it for another 5 to 10 minutes.
- Remove from the burner, and allow the chicken to cool a bit before carving.
- To serve your Vietnamese Tea Smoked Chicken, place chicken on a rack and cut it up, place the chicken pieces/slices on an attractive serving platter, and serve with the remaining salt-peppercorn in a separate bowl on the table for extra seasoning personal tastes.
- You might also want to have on the table some Nuaoc Cham Sauce, which goes great with Vietnamese Tea Smoked Chicken.
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