Hailing from Lu cuisine - one of China's 4 major styles of cooking, the Shandong Roast Chicken makes use of freshness and salt to create a flavourful meaty taste.
So I'm going to make a dish that's synonymous with this region. Shandong chicken. The first thing I want to do is pour boiling water all over the skin of the bird. It tightens the skin and makes the bird look absolutely beautiful. Now to marinade the bird. First I want to rub it all over with salt, and I also want to make a very, very simple marinade to go on the outside of the chicken, just a bit of sugar, some dark soy sauce and some cooking wine. A touch of ginger as well, but I only want to use the juice of the ginger, so I chop it very finely and then just squeeze the juice out between two spoons. That goes into the marinade and in the marinade gets rubbed over the chicken.
Normally I'd hang a chicken like this for about three hours, or even in the fridge overnight. While the chicken's cooking, I'll make my Shandong sauce. This is the secret to the entire dish. That harmony and balance between the five tastes of Chinese cooking is all present in this sauce. My sweet ingredients. I've got sugar. For my sour, I've got that amazing Shandong vinegar that's kind of malty and sour and sweet all at the same time.
For spiciness, I use chili. The garlic and onion provides a touch of bitterness, and I'm adding some chopped coriander as well. And then over the top of those five classic flavors of Chinese cooking, there's the one that unites them all. Xian, that kind of umami savoriness that's so prevalent in all Chinese food, but specifically here in Shandong.
I've added soy sauce, but I also want to finish this sauce with something from the roasted chicken itself. Just look at that chicken, the final ingredient of the rendered chicken fat and the roasting juices. And all I need to do is cut up the chicken. And that wonderful Shandong sauce just gets spooned over the chicken. A few coriander leaves, the perfect balance. Classic Shandong cuisine.