My Mother's Simple Chinese Roast Chicken

This recipe is brought to you by Jacob's Creek Reserve Wines

When my parents met and married in Australia and had my sister and I, they tried their best to assimilate us within the culture-to somewhat mixed results. I say mixed because we never learned how to speak Chinese so perhaps they did too good a job of assimilating us, but there were always Chinese touches to things that we ate. Even a roast chicken, thought mainly to be a "western" concept was made Chinese with the inclusion of a few ingredients-instead of adding a tarragon butter and a sage and onion stuffing, we added flavours of soy sauce, ginger, garlic and served it with a side of bok choy.


As children, my sister and I wanted her to keep the chicken whole because that was how people ate a chicken on television and I suppose as a result this is a "somewhat assimilated" version of a roast chicken. Like the dresses, I've since made some alterations, I now roast some Jalapeno chillies alongside the chicken to add flavour and spice and that's my addition to this family recipe. This tender, flavoursome chicken is comforting not just in flavour but in ease of making as it just requires no more work than a traditional roast chicken, perhaps even less. My other change to this dish is how I served it and that was with some Jacob's Creek Reserve wines - I loved the Jacob's Creek Reserve Chardonnay with this dish in particular, followed by their Pinot Noir. Both of these wines hail from regions in South Australia where the climate, soil and growing conditions really define and shape how the wine turns out.


I also realised a few years ago that my mother had learned all of her family recipes through doing cooking classes. Back then before you got married, you took these classes so that you could cook dinner. Some classes were held in people's homes and the recipe that I'm sharing today is actually from a woman whose address appears on the bottom right of the recipe above. The measurements are in measures like "kati" and include ingredients like lard which we replaced with oil and "vet sin" or MSG which we no longer use.

A few years ago my mother passed along some of her vintage dresses to me. I was thrilled because my mother had some truly beautiful dresses and I remember that once she let me leaf through some of her old diaries-not a personal diary but one with appointments. I marvelled at how even as a student and a newly wed, she had her clothes made to order, recording every order and purchase with what seems like minuscule sums of $1.20 for the material and 30 cents for thread. When she gifted them to me, I tried the dresses on and loved them immediately-they had to be adjusted in some cases, taken in or out at places and also hems added as some were too short as I'm a bit taller than she.

It's funny what you think you know about your family. For example, only last week did I learn that when my grandfather was killed in the war, my mother's family lived on the earnings of the family's rubber plantation. I made a passing comment about visiting the Yunnan province in China and my mother asked me whether the area was rich-I told her that the locals had made money from the numerous rubber plantations. I was completely unaware that one generation back, my mother's family did too.  Her mother my grandmother had six children and was a war widow and if it weren't for the land with the rubber trees, who knows what would have happened to the family. My grandmother was a tough woman but with six children it would not have been easy at all. She managed to put them all through university with it and they all went their own ways in life.


And Dear Reader, if you have a family recipe that you are proud of then Jacob's Creek is hosting a competition where you can win a seat at Australia’s Longest Reserve Table, to have lunch with My Kitchen Rules host and celebrity chef Pete Evans on the 27th of July, 2013 held at the Welcome Wall in Darling Harbour, Sydney. To enter the competition, just submit your favourite family dish with a description and and the story behind it on the competition page!

The best entries are shortlisted for the event attendance and winning entrants can then bring three friends or family members to the event along with their signature family dish to the lunch. Jacob’s Creek will supply the rest including of course lots of their fantastic Reserve range. Attendees will also get a chance to win a trip to the home of Jacob's Creek Reserve wines in South Australia. So if you have a family recipe to share just click here to enter and I may just see you there!

So tell me Dear Reader, do you have a family recipe that you're proud of? And have you looked into your family and heritage?


By the way I just wanted to share some of my favourite dresses of my mother's. I have the striped knit dress which she is wearing in the top left photo while playing the piano. Sadly the beautiful white one with the flowy sleeves below is no more and it was lost in transit from her life from Singapore to Australia.

My mother on the right with her sister, my wonderful auntie

My Mother's Simple Chinese Roast Chicken

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Serves 4

  • 1.6 kilo/3.5lb chicken

  • 2 brown onions or 5 golden eschallots, peeled and diced

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and diced

  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon oil

  • 2 teaspoons chicken boullion powder

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

  • 2 whole Jalapeno chillies

  • White steamed rice to serve


Step 1 - Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Clean and dry the chicken with paper towels thoroughly. In a food processor or mortar and pestle, blitz the onions and garlic together. Empty into a bowl and add the dark soy sauce, oil, chicken powder, salt, sugar and pepper to the onion mixture.


Step 2 - Spread all over the chicken using a brush or a spoon and place any leftover mixture inside the chicken.

Step 3 - Bake the chicken and the whole jalapenos for 60 minutes occasionally basting once or twice with any juices. Test for doneness by separating the leg and thick and if the juices run clear then it is done. The chillies should roast and sweeten and we just give half a chilli per person and they eat it along with the chicken for spice.

Steamed Bok Choy

  • 1 bunch of boy choy (about 3-4 in each bunch)

  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

  • 1 teaspoon chilli oil


Step 1 - Quarter the bok choy and wash thoroughly to remove grit between the layers. Place in a steamer and steam for 4 minutes or until leaves are wilted. Drizzle over with oyster sauce and sesame and chilli oil.


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