Have you ever fallen hard for a recipe? You know, a dish that you cannot stop making? I recently fell for a new one and in the year that I’ve known it, I’ve made it six times. And for me, that’s saying a lot. I generally only make recipes once before moving on. I get distracted so easily when it comes to food. I’m not particularly good at following recipes either, I can’t help but riff. Yet another side effect of my short culinary attention span. But last year I made Pups with Chopsticks’ Peking Chicken recipe and I was instantly smitten. I didn’t even pause to riff. I just made it. But then I made it again and again and finally the riffing started. These Lacquered Sesame Chicken Bowls with Asian Pear are the result of that riffing.
In all fairness to myself, my impolite recipe etiquette is a direct result of my profession. I write recipes for a living so most of the time I’m testing one of my own and eating the evidence. There’s usually more than enough food in this house. There isn’t much need for me to cook anything other than what I’m cooking for work.
But every now and then, often when I’m testing an inordinate amount of desserts, I have the opportunity to explore the dinner and lunch recipes of others and it is glorious. I find it restorative. It shakes you out of ingredient ruts, reminds you of methods you haven’t used in a while, and/or opens you up to new ones. You could be the most informed, most seasoned chef in the world and you could still have something to learn. Food is an impossibly big subject, there is just no way of knowing it all. It would be like knowing the entirety of human history without needing to crack a book.
But enough about my approach to other people’s recipes, let’s talk about the Peking Chicken recipe that gave birth to these Lacquered Sesame Chicken Bowls. What I love about the original Peking Chicken recipe is how simple it is. It really is just a three-ingredient marinade that results in the tastiest, most visually appealing chicken ever. So, when it came time to riff on the marinade, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t mess with that perfect ratio of soy sauce, sugar, and dark soy sauce for color. But I did switch up the glaze, reduce the cooking time a hair, and basted the chicken in a slightly different way. Oh, and I served it over rice and paired it with fruits and veggies in various states of dress. But that’s riffing for you.
I often wonder if other recipe writers take issue with their reader’s riffing. I hope not. Most people are worried I’ll be offended if they add or take away from one of my recipes. It really doesn’t bother me. Honestly, I’m usually flattered. I think it’s great when my recipe inspires someone enough to want to take charge of their dinner. At the end of the day, recipes are teaching tools, not gospel. I would rather you take a method away from my recipe or a new favorite flavor combo than the recipe itself.
I only take issue with riffing when a person adds or takes away something that disrupts the structural integrity of the dish and then complains or leaves a bad review. To further that point, I would advise this – know your limit and riff within it. If you don’t know what’s vital to the chemical makeup of a cake, experiment with mix-ins and different flavors of frosting but leave the cake itself alone. Or don’t, but go forward with the expectation that your experiment might fail. And never forget, failure is the best teacher – this is particularly true if you’re trying your hand at writing your own recipes.
But enough about that, let’s talk about Asian pear coated in sesame oil, lime juice, and gochugaru or chunks of hot pepper lightly pickled in black vinegar. These are far more delicious topics. And can we talk about how amazing raw radish is? What I love most about these Lacquered Sesame Chicken Bowls is their contrast. The intermingling of raw and cooked ingredients. Clean and fresh tastes bumping up against funky, umami-rich flavors, and the unifying power of fluffy steamed rice. These bowls deliver everything a person like me needs, which is essentially twelve different eating experiences in a single bowl.
So that’s everything you need to know about these Lacquered Sesame Chicken Bowls with Asian Pear. A vibrant, visually appealing meal that delivers a different combination of flavors and textures in every bite.
Lacquered Sesame Chicken Bowls with Asian Pear
- Roasting dish large enough to accomodate a chicken
- A v-rack
Lacquered Sesame Chicken
- 1 whole chicken
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp five spice powder
- 3 scallions
- 1 (1½ inch) knob ginger sliced
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
For the Bowls
- 5 hot green peppers coarsley chopped
- ⅓ cup black vinegar
- 1 Asian pear peeled and cut into batons
- ½ lime juiced
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp gochugaru
- 1 head green lettuce leaves washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
- 3 cups steamed jasmine rice
- 5-6 radishes cut into wedges
- ½ cucumber cut into batons
- Trim the chicken of excess fat and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub the salt and five-spice powder all over the chicken and inside the cavity. Stuff the chicken with the scallions and ginger pieces and place in a large bowl. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk to combine the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and granulated sugar. Pour the mixture over the chicken. Rotate the chicken to ensure it is evenly covered in the marinade. Cover and transfer to the fridge. Let the chicken marinate for at least 3 hours or for up to 24 hours. Be sure to rotate the chicken mid-way through the marinating time.
- Transfer the chicken to a roasting pan fitted with a V-rack. Pour the excess marinade into a small bowl and set aside. Let to chicken come to room temperature by letting it sit on the counter for 30 minutes. This is a good time to start preheating the oven to 350°F.
- Place the chicken in the oven and roast for 1 hour. Take the chicken out and brush it with the reserved marinade. Place the chicken back in the oven and roast for 15 minutes more.
- Take the chicken out of the oven and pour the honey over top, using a pastry brush to ensure even coverage. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the chicken and return to the oven. Roast for another 10 minutes or until the chicken feels tacky to the touch.
- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let cool sligthly before carving.
For the Bowl
- When you put the chicken in the marinade, place the hot green peppers in a bowl. Pour the black vinegar over top. Cover and transfer to the fridge until ready to serve.
- When the chicken is nearly done, place the pear in a bowl and add the lime juice, sesame oil, and gochugaru. Toss to coat. Set aside.
- When the chicken is carved and ready, arrange a mound of lettuce in a bowl. Add the rice, followed by some chicken. Round out the bowl with a spoonful of peppers, pear, radish, and cucumber. Garnish with a lime wedge, a drizzle of the pepper-infused black vinegar, and a final sprinkling of gochugaru. Repeat with three more bowls and serve immediately.