Chinese Roast Chicken is a homecooked version of the distinctive Cantonese-style barbecued meats named Siu Mei 燒味. Siu Mei originates from the Guangdong province of Southern China. Today, the fascination for these flavourful roasted meats is widespread in Southeast Asia and globally. We can find this signature variety of roasted meats hanging from S-shaped hooks behind the glass displays of Cantonese barbecue restaurants worldwide.
If I were to roast this Cantonese-style chicken at home, I would normally use a Dutch Oven. However, I have opted for an air fryer oven this time instead. The air fryer method helps to replicate the Cantonese-style barbecue roast poultry result of a crispy skin and juicy meat.
Cantonese roasted meats have a distinctive and immense barbecue flavour. Chefs will marinate the different types of meat with various flavoursome sauces before roasting. Then, the chefs will roast the meats in a large wood-burning oven or open fire spits. Traditionally, Cantonese-style roasted meats comprise bbq pork (char siu), roast pork belly, roast suckling pig, and roast duck. Modern variations include roast spareribs and roast squab or pigeon.
You may also like some of my other chicken recipes: Cantonese Salt and Pepper Chicken, Fried Five Spice Chicken with Special Chilli Sauce and Grilled Curry Chicken Thighs.
Preparing and Cooking Chinese Roast Chicken
Chinese Roast Chicken has many different homecooked variations with some recipes including hoisin sauce as a marinade. The cooking method is an adaptation from a customary roast duck method. The poultry is first marinated with ginger, peppercorns, green shallots, star anise, cassia buds, cloves, Chinese cooking wine, and salt. Next, the bird will be inflated with air and poached straight away. However, this is only when duck is used. For chicken, exclude inflating with air. After poaching, dry the poultry completely.
Chinese chefs typically dry the meat using an air-drying method of hanging the poultry with an S-shaped hook, just like what you’ll see on display at a Cantonese BBQ restaurant. When the poultry is dry, the chefs will brush the poultry skin with a coating made of maltose, Chinese rice wine, vinegar, and salt. They will then leave the poultry to completely dry again as this is a crucial step for crispy skin. The chefs will later roast the poultry in a large wood-burning oven or open fire spits.
Gluten-Free Chinese Roast Chicken with Crispy Skin
For my gluten-free Chinese Roast Chicken, using an air fryer oven means the process is much quicker and easier. The cooking time is 40 minutes instead of the typical 1 to 1½ hours in a regular oven. The air fryer method not only cooks the chicken faster but also more consistently, browning the chicken skin way better. The fan circulating hot air at high speed creates a dry atmosphere. Thus, the air fryer oven produces very crispy skin.
Frying with air also involves up to 90% less fat, making the air fryer oven a healthier choice. As a result, the dish is low in calories. This Chinese Roast Chicken recipe is not only gluten-free, but also Paleo, dairy-free, corn-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, low carb and refined sugar-free.
Using an air fryer oven, my gluten-free Chinese Roast Chicken turned out so well and full of flavour. The chicken has crispy skin, superb juiciness, and moist and tender meat. I used only a few simple ingredients to make this delicious chicken. The main marinating ingredients are coconut aminos, honey, Chinese five spice powder, ground white pepper, and medium dry sherry. After marinating, I left the chicken to drain and dry thoroughly overnight in the refrigerator in a vertical position. You can also use this recipe for oven roasting the chicken if you do not have an air fryer.
Condiment and Dipping Sauce for Chinese Roast Chicken
A meal is never complete without condiments or dipping sauces for the dish. Hence, for my gluten free Chinese Crispy Skin Chicken, I have included a fragrant chilli dipping sauce. It complements the chicken extremely well. Ingredients for the chilli dipping sauce include red chillies, garlic, onion, and extra virgin olive oil. I processed these sauce ingredients into a smooth paste in a food processor. Using a saucepan, I stir-fried the paste for 3 minutes and seasoned with salt, sugar, lime zest, and lime juice. In addition, I have added a Sichuan pepper salt as a condiment. For the aroma, I used a skillet or frypan to toast the ground Sichuan peppercorn and salt for 3 minutes.
Top Tips for Crispy Skin Chicken
- Ensure that the chicken skin is totally dry by patting thoroughly including the cavity.
- Place the chicken in an upright position using either a clean tall glass, tin can, or bottle on a plate. This is to drain and dry the chicken.
- Marinate with minimum liquid. Wet ingredients include just honey, maltose, coconut aminos, or gluten-free light soy sauce. Do not add any water to the marinate.
- Refrigerate overnight after marinating to ensure that the chicken skin is dry completely.
- Separate the chicken skin from the breast by carefully inserting your fingers underneath the skin. Take care not to break the skin. This helps render the fats to dribble off from the skin, causing it to dry and crisp up during roasting.
- Best drying methods for a whole chicken include the traditional method of hanging the chicken using an S-shaped hook. Other methods are using a fan, air-conditioner or hairdryer, or refrigerating the chicken uncovered overnight in a vertical position.
Nutritional Values and Health Benefits of Chicken
Whole chicken is the most frequently consumed poultry in the world. It is not only a Sunday roast favourite for the entire family, but also packed full of nutrition. Chicken is a highly affordable and versatile everyday ingredient that you eat at home. You can find chicken on restaurant menus of different cuisines. It is not only a popular white meat, but also a high quality lean protein. Chicken is low in fats and calories, making it an outstanding substitute for red meat.
Furthermore, Chicken is a superb source of essential minerals such phosphorous and selenium. It is also a fantastic source of choline and the B group of vitamins. Including vitamins B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B2 (riboflavin), and B1 (thiamine). Chicken is also excellent for zinc, iron, potassium, magnesium, iodine, vitamins D, B7 (Biotin), A and B9 (Folate). It also has some amount of vitamin E.
Overall, the health benefits of whole chicken include:
- Building and maintaining muscles;
- Promoting healthy bones and teeth;
- Aiding in weight loss and management;
- Boosting the body’s immune system;
- Supporting heart health and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases;
- Providing common cold and flu relief;
- Reducing Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS symptoms; and
- Having a calming effect that helps to lower stress levels and elevate moods.