We're Nate Tate and Mary Kate Tate, a brother and sister cookbook author team obsessed with all things China. We create authentic and accessible Chinese recipes for home cooks. See more...


salt baked chicken

The circus has come to town for two weeks and set up shop right in front of my Brooklyn apartment. It's actually an Italian neighborhood festival celebrating the "Lady of Mount Carmel" with rides, carnival games, live music, and tons of italian food booths.  I've enjoyed it but I won't be sad when it's over. I go to sleep every night with the smell of funnel cakes pumping through my air conditioner and the sounds of an 80s cover band blaring Michael Jackson songs outside my window. Click here to see the view from my window. Saturday afternoon I was walking through the crowds with my dog Nelson, wondering if I should get an Italian sausage or skip right to some fried oreos, when I  settled on a booth selling rotisserie chicken.  The chickens had been rubbed with salt and oregano and roasted so that meat was succulent and moist.  It reminded me of a Chinese dish called Salt Baked Chicken.  In the dish, the chicken is rubbed with sichuan peppercorns and five spice powder, wrapped in cloth and covered with a mound of salt, and cooked in a wok.  The thick layer of salt traps the heat in keeps the chicken moist and flavorful.

Here is our recipe for Salt Baked Chicken.  I cooked it on Sunday and ate it with a side of stir-fried bok choy.   Our recipe uses an oven instead of a wok and I think it gets better results.  Enjoy.

-Mary Kate

Salt Baked Chicken

3 lb. chicken
1/4 cup shaoxing rice wine
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
3 green onions
4 lb. very coarse salt
1 teaspoon five spice powder
2 teaspoon sichuan peppercorns

1 large piece of cheesecloth

Rinse the chicken under cool water, cut away any fat around the cavity opening, and place the chicken in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the rice wine, ginger, green onions.  Use a sieve to strain the rice wine mixture over the chicken and place the contents of the sieve in the chicken cavity. Put the chicken in a cool place and let marinate for 30 minutes.  

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the salt evenly in a casserole dish that is slightly larger that the chicken and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove the salt from the oven but leave the oven on. Using a spoon, make a valley in the heated salt by pushing the salt to the sides of the dish. Place the chicken on a dry surface and rub the spice mixture all over the chicken.  Wrap the chicken in cheesecloth then place it breast side up in the salt valley. Using the spoon, cover the chicken with salt from the sides of the dish. Make sure the chicken is completely covered with a layer of salt. Bake at bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour. Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for 30 minutes.  Discard the salt and use a cleaver to chop the chicken into chopstick-friendly pieces. Serve.


xinjiang is pronounced "sheen-jong"

There are so many accounts floating around about the violence that is going on in Xinjiang, China (156 people are dead, 800 injured from rioting in the northwest Chinese region), that it's hard to know what to think. I found where an Al Jazeera news reporter, Melissa K Chan, is reporting directly from Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, on her twitter page. Check it out for timely updates. I'm not sure how she's doing it because twitter is blocked in China. China has a media blackout surrounding the riots in Urumqi. This reminds me of the chaos in Tibet during March 2008. Tibet is another Autonomous Region in China with a lot of unrest associated with the Chinese government controls on culture and religion.

During my last visit to Xinjiang, I noticed the cultural differences between the Han Chinese and Uighur (pronounced wee-gur) people firsthand. The Uighur are ethnically Turkic and largely Muslim. Some people have blue eyes and even light colored hair. Locals thought I was Uighur and more times than not would start talking to me in their native Turkic language. I saw many Muslim Uighur women wearing headscarves and facemasks even though it was 90 degrees outside. Han Chinese women were wearing clothes like what I wear in New York in the summer – shorts, tanks, skirts above the knee. I saw more extremely “devout” women (completely covered except for their hands) in the smaller cities throughout Xinjiang than I did in Urumqi, a city of 3 million. One man in Kashgar, a far western city in Xinjiang near the border of Pakistan where protests have been rumored to have started also this week, told me that I was still “too modern,” even though I had put on an ankle-length skirt and headscarf.

Uighur food is heavy on breads, lamb, and dried fruits and nuts. Uighur street vendors sell stewed lamb heads (not my favorite dish) and baked breads (two things you don’t see in the rest of China).

I love Uighur bread. The dough is kneaded and flattened into large disks and then it's decorated with a lace-like pattern using a tool made out of the hard, hollow ends of bird feathers. Then the bread maker uses his hands to reach down into an earthen oven and stick the dough to the sides where years of crusty salt layers have accumulated.  When the bread is baked, it comes loose from the sides of the oven and is pulled out with a hook. Uighur bread is eaten by itself or served with noodles or with lamb head stew (again, not my fave). It's also made into something like a pizza with lamb and vegetable toppings.

The Shanghaiist has a good report about what's happened so far in Xinjiang.

-Mary Kate


chinese truism of the day


(chá yú fàn hòu)

Over a cup of tea or after dinner;
at one's leisure

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chinese truism of the day


(xǐ xíng yú sè)

A man's happiness can be told by his face;
lighten up, beam with happiness

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stir-fried eggs & tomatoes / jidan chao xihongshi

I just got back on Monday from a relaxing vacation in Florida with the family. It was a great week of eating seafood and loads of junk food that I let myself get away with eating because "I'm on vacation." Now I'm back home and my fridge is depressing. I  haven't restocked it yet and when I opened my refrigerator tonight, I saw a few expired foods, some eggs, a couple of really ripe tomatoes, and green onions. Not the most inspiring ingredients to work with. I thought about reaching for that Ben & Jerry's that I knew is in the freezer, but decided to be an adult and cook an actual meal, however humble. I settled on Jidan Chao Xihongshi (西红柿炒鸡蛋) or Stir-Fried Eggs & Tomatoes.

Stir-Fried Eggs & Tomatoes is a simple, but tasty dish. It's the most popular dish at school cafeterias in China. Some of my Chinese friends say that it was the first dish they learned how to cook because it is so easy to prepare. The sesame oil gives the eggs flavor and the sugar balances out the tomatoes' acidity. Just make sure not to overcook the tomatoes. I've done that a few times and it makes the eggs kind of watery. Stir-Fried Eggs & Tomatoes also goes well with Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream.

I'm making a trip to Chinatown today to re-stock the fridge. Stay tuned.



Stir-Fried Eggs & Tomatoes

4 eggs
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 green onions
2 medium tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Beat the eggs and sesame oil together in a mixing bowl. Chop the green onions and slice the tomatoes into wedges. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or frying pan over high heat until the oil is hot, then add the green onions and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, salt, and sugar and stir-fry for 1 minute. Pour in the egg mixture and let cook for 1 minute, then use your spatula to break the egg into pieces and stir-fry until the eggs set (about 2 more minutes). Sprinkle with a few chopped green onions and serve.