- 1 boneless chicken breast
- 1 2" piece ginger, with skin on
- 2 scallions, white parts only
- 1 C cold water
- 3/4 t fine-grained salt
- 1 T potato starch
- 2 T egg white
- 2 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked for at least 30 minutes in hot water
- 1 C neutral oil
- 2 t Shaoxing wine
- 3/4 t potato starch mixed with 2 T cold water
- + slices of cooked ham, for garnish
- + cilantro leaves, for garnish
Place the chicken breast on a wooden board and pummel it with the blunt back of a cleaver blade (or, better, the blunt backs of a pair of cleavers). Keep “chopping” the meat, backward and forward, turning it over and around on the board, until it is reduced to a smooth paste. Then hold the cleaver blade at a close angle to the board and spread the paste out—this will allow you to pick out any white wisps of tendon whole, allowing for a perfectly smooth paste. Place the paste in a bowl.
Smack the ginger and scallion whites with the flat side of the cleaver blade to loosen them, then place in a bowl and add the cold water. Add the salt to the chicken paste and mix well. Then stir in the potato starch and egg white, mixing thoroughly. Strain the ginger-scallion water, discarding the solids. Stir the chicken paste in one direction (it’s easiest to do this with your hand), gradually adding the strained ginger-scallion water until it has all been incorporated. Divide the paste into two equal portions, retaining one for the Taiji Chicken Soup.
Cut the soaked shiitakes and bamboo shoots into thin slices. Drop the bamboo shoots into a little boiling water and blanch for a minute or so to refresh them; drain.
When you are ready to cook, heat the oil in a seasoned wok over a high flame to 250°F. Pour in one portion of the chicken paste and stir gently with the ladle. When the paste has floated to the surface in cloudlike pieces, pour the chicken and oil through a metal sieve into a heatproof container to catch the oil.
Return the wok to a high flame with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the sliced shiitakes and bamboo shoots and stir-fry until piping hot. Return the chicken to the wok, and pour the Shaoxing wine around the edges. Give the starch mixture a stir and pour it into the center of the wok, stirring as it thickens. Turn everything onto a serving dish and garnish with the sliced ham and cilantro leaves.