Red Wine Ginger Chicken (Hong Zao Ji)

Hong Zao Ji
Hiap Hwa Coffeeshop
Blk 722 Ang Mo Kio Ave 8 #01-2843
Tel: 6223 7883
Opening Hours: 7am to 9.30pm daily

Her chicken is cooked with the lees or sediment from home-fermented red wine. It is served with rice ($3.80) or mee sua (vermicelli, $3.50).

I like the mee sua version because the noodles are cooked just right – they are not soggy and do not clump together.

The fragrance of the wine and the thick red gravy make the dish different from those from other stalls I have tried.

The lees impart a distinctive full-bodied wine flavour that comes through very well in the tender and succulent meat that is coloured a lovely bright red.

And apparently, this is what attracts taxi-drivers to the stall in the Ang Mo Kio coffee shop. Customers, who come from as far as Changi and Woodlands, know about the stall through word of mouth.

Madam Ong uses only fresh kampung chicken in her recipe which has been handed down for generations.

To get the lees, glutinous rice grains are soaked for several hours before they are steamed. The cooked rice is then cooled, and ground yeast cake (jiu bing) and red yeast rice added. The mixture is left to ferment for more than a month.

During the fermentation, Hua Diao wine is added. It turns red from the red yeast rice, and the different rice grains form the lees. Using good quality wine makes the lees more fragrant, says Madam Ong, who does the cooking herself.

She has been selling the traditional dish for about 20 years, and takes pride in how each pot is freshly made, even though she whips up several pots a day.

She also makes Foochow fishballs. These are just like fishballs except that they are stuffed with minced pork (50 cents each). They are not as bouncy as normal fishballs but are tastier and juicier because of the meat filling.


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