When my brothers and I were kids, we called this dish “Sabaw Itim”, literally Black Soup. To our very young minds, we called it as we saw it – soup because it was so liquid-y and black because it was so dark in color.
It’s actually chicken braised in soy sauce with mushrooms and boiled eggs.
It was a real favorite and we had it at least once a month! In those days, the dish was so much more soupier (after all we all wanted the soup/sauce on our rice!) and the chicken pieces were various cuts from 1 whole chicken. These days, chicken is available by specific parts, and boneless, no less! My favorite part? boneless, skinless chicken thigh!
about 600 to 700 grams of boneless chicken thighs (about 8 to 10 pieces)
2 to 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/2 bulb garlic, smashed
a small thumb of ginger, sliced into matchsticks
2 to 3 pieces large bay leaves, crumbled
1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns
1/4 cup light soy sauce
dash of shao xing wine
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
150 grams small fresh shitake, about 15 to 18 small pieces
(or 60 grams dried shitake, about 15 to 18 small pieces)
4 to 6 pieces boiled eggs
1/2 to 1 cup water (or mushroom soaking liquid, chicken stock)
Mix marinade ingredients together; set aside for a while.
Clean the chicken pieces and slice each piece into 2 or 3 pieces, depending on the size desired (remember that meat shrinks upon cooking so adjust accordingly).
Pour marinade over chicken and let stand for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, if using dried mushrooms, soak in warm water until softened; drain but keep the soaking liquid. Cut the stems off the mushrooms (fresh or dried ones). Rinse lightly to remove dirt and grime, if there is any.
When we were younger, this dish was cooked on the stove-top in a clay pot; it was soupier too. The way I make this dish now is with the magic cooker and with a lot less liquid.
The traditional way:
Smash some more garlic and saute them over low fire until lightly browned and deliciously fragrant! Then dump the chicken pieces and all marinade into the pot. Throw the rehydrated mushrooms in too (IF using fresh mushrooms, add them after 15 minutes of simmering.) Add enough liquid to barely cover the chicken pieces; mix to combine everything. Cook on medium or medium low and simmer until done, about 30 minutes or so, depending on the size of chicken pieces (smaller pieces cook faster). Top up with more liquid if the sauce is reduced too much OR if a soupier dish is desired. About 5 minutes before putting off the stove fire, add the boiled eggs. Adjust seasonings to desired taste. Off fire, add a few more drops of sesame oil. Top with chopped leeks. Serve while hot!
The magic cooker way:
Just dump the chicken pieces and marinade into the inner pot. Throw in mushrooms and boiled eggs, too. Add 1/2 cup of liquid; mix gently to combine everything (and not mutilate the eggs). Adjust seasonings. Cook on medium or medium low and simmer for 10 minutes (start counting when liquid starts bubbling). Place inner pot inside the outer chamber of the magic cooker. Leave for 30 to 45 minutes. Just before serving, add a few more drops of sesame oil. Top with chopped leeks. Serve while hot!
DISH VARIATIONS – Use firm tofu instead of mushrooms, or use a variety of fresh mushrooms – shitake, button, Korean king oyster, straw, etc.
Or, use pork cubes or ribs instead of chicken.
PERSONAL NOTES –
The soaking liquid of the dried mushrooms is very flavorful, but some find it too strong, in which case use only 1/4 of the soaking liquid and 1/4 cup or more of water or stock. Or omit the soaking liquid altogether.
If using dried mushrooms and their soaking liquid, the sauce of the dish will have a stronger, more pronounced flavor. If using fresh mushrooms, the dish has a more subtle, delicate flavor. It’s delicious either way. Using different kinds of fresh mushrooms gives more dimension to the dish.
The original recipe (from my mom’s files) has 1/2 tablespoon sugar as an ingredient in the marinade but I’ve always skipped it. Also, dark (and salty) soy sauce was traditionally used but I’m happy with my light soya sauce (and hubby is ok with it as well) which is less salty and does not impart a dark brown (almost black) color.