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Recipe of spicy big tray chicken from Spicy Village restaurant

新疆大盘鸡食谱.jpg

On the advice of two friends, I wandered one day into Spicy Village, in Manhattan’s Chinatown, a restaurant that politeness prevents me from describing as anything other than “modest.” I stopped by a couple of years ago to have the not-at-all-bad $2 pork sandwich, a pile of sloppy-Joe-ish pork served on light, crisp bread baked by the proprietors — Wendy Lian and her husband, Ren Fu Li — but I rarely thought of it again.

有一天,我听从两位朋友的建议,漫步走进曼哈顿中国城的“辣村”餐馆。那里的服务我只能用“还凑合”来形容。几年前我顺道来这里吃过一个两美元的肉夹馍,味道还不算太坏。肉夹馍有点像辣牛肉末汉堡,就是把猪肉末夹在店主自己烤的脆白饼里,但是我很少再想起过它。这家店的主人是温迪·连和她的丈夫李仁福。

This time, however, I ordered, as I’d been instructed by my friends, the No. 7, the Spicy Big Tray Chicken. It arrived on an aluminum tray (you eat it on a foam plate with a plastic fork or chopsticks), a mound of chicken nearly afloat in a bath of dark, spicy sauce that contained star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, chile, garlic, cilantro, a few mystery ingredients and…potatoes. This was like no other “Chinese” dish I’d had before.

不过,这一次我根据朋友们的推荐点了第7号菜——大盘鸡。它盛放在一个铝盆里(把它夹到泡沫盘子里用塑料叉子或者筷子食用),一大堆鸡肉几乎是漂浮在深色的辣酱汁里,酱汁里有八角茴香、花椒、辣椒、大蒜、香菜和几种神秘的配料以及……土豆。它和我以前吃过的“中餐”都不一样。

That I ate this chicken four times in the following weeks — sometimes alone, sometimes with friends — is a testament to just how good it is. But I also wanted to make my face known to the owners so I could eventually ask to cook it with them. Although those of you who live in or visit New York should eat this in situ, the rest of you should whip it up at home.

在接下来的几周里,我吃了四次这道菜,有时是自己一个人吃,有时是和朋友一起吃。这能说明它非常好吃。但我也是想在店主跟前混个脸熟,以便最终请求跟他们一起做这道菜。住在纽约或来纽约参观的人一定要来这家店里尝尝这道菜,其他人可以自己在家快速烹制这道菜。

It’s an odd concoction, as I saw when Lian, and her brother, Zeng Xin, who is the restaurant’s cook, took me into the kitchen. The chicken — legs cut into pieces with a cleaver (yes, you’ll wind up eating some bone fragments) — is marinated in Budweiser, salt, pepper and MSG. Over a huge flame in a large wok partly filled with oil, Zeng fried the chicken, stirring it almost constantly. He then drained it, waited a minute and fried it again.

温迪·连和她的哥哥、这家餐馆的厨师曾辛带我去厨房看的时候,我发现它是个奇怪的混合物。用刀把鸡腿切成块(是的,你会吃到一些碎骨头),腌在用百威啤酒、盐、辣椒和味精调制的酱汁里。曾辛在一个大锅里加入很多油,放入鸡块,用大火不停翻炒。然后他把油沥干,等一分钟,再炒。

At this point the chicken was quite browned and even done by some standards. But Zeng stir-fried it with a mixture of dried spices, spicy bean paste, Fujianese wine, garlic and ginger. Enormous amounts of black pepper were thrown in at nearly every stage. At some point half-cooked potatoes were added, and the whole thing was cooked until they were done and the chicken was beyond tender. The process was completed in less than 30 minutes (it took me twice that long at home), and the dish was topped with cilantro and ready to be served.

这时,鸡肉已经十分金黄,差不多都熟了。但是曾辛加入了干辣椒、辣豆瓣酱、福建黄酒、大蒜和姜,继续翻炒。差不多每个阶段都放入大量黑胡椒。在某个时刻,加入煮得半熟的土豆,所有的东西一起炒,直至全部炒熟,鸡肉变得特别嫩。整个过程用时不到半小时(我在家做的时候花了两倍的时间),最后撒上香菜,就可以上桌了。

What, I asked Lian, is the origin of this weird dish? She explained that although the restaurant is Henanese, Big Tray Chicken has roots in Xinjiang, the predominantly Muslim province on the opposite side of the country, where it’s called Dapanji and is often served with noodles. Spice Village gives you the option of including hand-pulled ones, which is a fun kind of overkill, but I preferred rice.

我问连,这道奇怪的菜起源于什么地方?她说,虽然这家餐馆是河南风味的,但大盘鸡起源于新疆。新疆位于中国的另一端,居民以穆斯林为主,在那里,大盘鸡一般是跟面条一起上桌的。辣村也提供手制拉面,味道非常强烈,不过我还是更喜欢米饭。

Although there are challenges to recreating this at home — starting with the chopping of the chicken legs and continuing with the deep- and stir-frying, where it’s difficult to get high-enough heat — they’re surmountable. And not only can you get the technique pretty much right, you also can improve on the ingredients. I didn’t use the MSG or the Budweiser, and I made a fast chicken stock with the scraps of the bones, which allowed me to omit the chicken-bouillon powder Zeng used. I used better potatoes too. (As for shortcuts: start with boneless thighs; skip the marinating; fry once. It’s not quite as good, but it’s not a terrible downgrade.)

虽然在家里重现这个过程有些挑战——首先是切鸡腿,然后是高温翻炒,家里一般没有那么大的火——但这些都是可以克服的。你不仅能够较好地掌握那些技巧,还能改进配料。我没有用味精和百威啤酒,我用切剩的鸡骨头快速做了个鸡汤,这样就不必使用曾辛用的鸡汤粉。我用的土豆也更好(还有一些捷径:你可以用无骨的鸡大腿肉来做;跳过腌制那个环节;只煎一次。那样味道会稍差一些,但是不会太糟)。

None of this is to take anything away from the Spicy Village version, which is delicious; it’s to encourage you to make it at home, where it will be just as tasty.

这些都不是为了让你背离辣村的做法——因为辣村的很好吃——而是为了鼓励你在家做。你做的也会挺好吃的。

2016-06-23

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