May 10, 2020

Grandma's Chinese Steamed Brined Chicken 煎焗雞髀

雞腿, 雞髀,  蒸焗, 蒸, 焗, 鹽醃, 煎焗, Grandma, Chinese, recipe, Steamed, Brined, Chicken, salt marinated

I've been chatting to my mama 媽媽 a lot about food recently, as she's been both recovering from illness and stuck at home a lot ( and I mean A LOT! :) and thus doing quite a bit of cooking.  She reminded me of this special dish that my grandma 奶奶 (♥️!!) used to make and it's one of my childhood favorites!  

You know how there are certain foods eaten when you were young that you can clearly remember the taste, aroma, details of presentation and the eating of it, even all these long years later?  Well, this dish, for me, is one of those.  

A simple, humble home cooked dish is all Grandma's Chinese Steamed Brined Chicken 煎焗雞髀 is, just salt brined chicken panfried to crisp up the skin and then steamed with ginger and spring onion.  Simple, but boy oh boy, the moment my mama mentioned it, it all came crashing into my mind,  how ridiculously tenderly delicious it was...and how I always secretly hoped my gran would make it for dinner that day...and how I tried to sneakily eat as much of it as I could before my mama would slap my greedy chopsticks away from getting more.

雞腿, 雞髀,  蒸焗, 蒸, 焗, 鹽醃, 煎焗, Grandma, Chinese, recipe, Steamed, Brined, Chicken, salt marinated

After some research on steamed chicken dishes, let me start by saying that I believe that my Grandma's Steamed Brined Chicken dish is unique from most other steamed chicken dishes and I'll explain why as we go along.  Certainly, I've never tasted anything quite like it.  And, of course, cuz she's my grandma and grandmas rule, it's the most yummilicious chicken ever!

First step is to get some fresh chicken drumsticks.  We used frozen drumsticks from chickens raised w/o growth hormones or antibodies.  Leave out to defrost while making the brine.

雞腿, 雞髀,  蒸焗, 蒸, 焗, 鹽醃, 煎焗, Grandma, Chinese, recipe, Steamed, Brined, Chicken, salt marinated
Our wet brine uses salt and sugar
Brining is an age old method of using salt to preserve, to add flavor and to tenderize food, and is ubiquitous over most of the world. As we've been getting more into different methods of preservation, it's been a real eye opener to see all the different uses that salt can be put to such as dry salt preserving vegetables, brining Chinese preserved limes, salt curing fish roe, and pickling peppers and other veg.  This humble thing called salt turns out to have superpowers!

This then is the first special aspect of my grandma's recipe: the meat is brined.  My mama was following my grandma's method of dry brining her meat, which just means using salt directly on the meat, however, she ended up having trouble controlling the brining time and thus the resulting saltiness of the meat.  

After some research I decided to wet brine instead (melting salt in water to make a wet immersive brine) as it seems to allow much more control over salt intensity as in there's no way the meat will be overly salty and I don't have to worry about it and cuz I'm lazy like that.  Plus with wet brine you can start adding flavors to the brine (YAY!) like sugar, herbs, spices, etc.

Note:  We were over the moon after trying out the wet brine!!  It was super easy and made the meat so tender and so flavorful, it was OMG AMAZING! and I swear we're going to brine everything from now on!

雞腿, 雞髀,  蒸焗, 蒸, 焗, 鹽醃, 煎焗, Grandma, Chinese, recipe, Steamed, Brined, Chicken, salt marinated

The second special aspect of Gran's recipe was that, after brining, Grandma would panfry the drumsticks until the skins were tight and golden and crisp.  While the brining makes the meat tender and lusciously flavorful, the pan frying gives the skin a lovely, slightly crisp caramelized taste and texture and prevents the chicken meat from shrinking too much when steamed.  

With the brining and the panfrying done, the chicken is then steamed, infusing the meat with the fragrance of ginger and spring onion and releasing a wonderful, slightly sticky, golden hued chicken essence infused sauce that you can bathe each delicious chickeny mouthful with.

(Thanks Grams, this is one of my top favorite chicken dishes ever...) 

And when finally the chicken was served that night, we each tasted a bite, chewed thoughtfully...and then tore through rest of the drumsticks like two large and one small tornado.  OMG...soooo good!  And, to my delight, exactly how I remembered it to be.  

Actually, the recipe is so simple that when I first told my hubby 老公 about it, he was skeptical,  thinking that such simplicity of flavoring would end in a rather bland result.  Well, grandma's recipe proved him totally and irrevocably wrong and then some!!  He loved it so much that he requested it for the next day, which...pssst...don't tell him I'm on to him...he never ever does!  

Try out Grandma's unique Steamed Brined Chicken and join the club of chickeny converts!

Happy Mothers Day to all the mamas and grandmas out there!!  And pssst...special love to my 媽媽 and dearest 奶奶!

雞腿, 雞髀,  蒸焗, 蒸, 焗, 鹽醃, 煎焗, Grandma, Chinese, recipe, Steamed, Brined, Chicken, salt marinated
Grandma's Chinese Steamed Brined Chicken 
Brining time: 12 hrs  Prep time: 5 mins  Cooking time: 25 mins


  • 5 chicken drumsticks
  • 2 tsp Shao Hsing rice wine
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 stalks spring onions, cut to 2” lengths
  • 1 inch ginger, sliced 1/8" thick
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar


Make brine by adding water, sugar and salt to small pot and heat until just boiled and sugar and salt melted.  Turn off and let cool to room temp*.  Pour into a container, add drum sticks in, making sure meat completely submerged.  Refrigerate overnight.

*Tip: To cool faster pour brine into a bowl.  Using a larger bowl that the first bowl will fit into, fill 3/4 to top with cool water.  Put bowl with brine into large bowl, making sure no water spills.  The cool water in the larger bowl will quickly absorb the heat of the brine.  

After 10 mins, check water of large bowl.  It will be very warm.  Pour out and refill with cool water.  Repeat until brine water is cooled.  A great method for cooling that I use all the time to speed things up!

Remove drumsticks from brine and use kitchen paper to dry as much as you can.  Add 2 tbsp oil to frying pan and fry the drumsticks over low heat until the skin is golden brown all around.

Special tip: My hubby 老公 has developed a tweak here for more flavor: After removing drumsticks, heat up the pan again over a low heat, add 2 tbsp of rice wine (instead of 2 tsps) and the sliced ginger to the pan, stir frying for about 30 secs or so, scrapping the caramelized bits from pan as you go.  Pour this over the drumsticks in lieu of rice wine before steaming for extra flavor boost.

Place drumsticks into a steaming dish.  Sprinkle wine, salt and sesame oil over.  Evenly distribute sliced ginger and spring onions all over and between meat.

Steam over high heat for 18 mins.  Remove and serve hot.  It can be served as drumsticks to each diner or use a sharp knife slice meat off bone.  Please enjoy Grandma 奶奶's special treat!



  1. I have not tried this dish before, but it certainly sounds amazing! Will put it on my list of things to cook, thanks!

  2. I am thinking to cool the brine faster you could try heating up less water to dissolve sugar and salt, then making up for the water defficiency by adding ice cubes.

  3. Forgot to mention this is so happening for dinner tomorrow. So excited! Thank you for sharing another wonderful recipe

    1. Hey Sabena - Yay 😜! I hope you like my gram's chicken! ~ellen

  4. The chicken turned out delicious as expected, over brined them a little 2 days. I may add a little more salt next time. Did as suggested by your hubby. Made it sooo flavorful.

    1. Wonderful, I'll let him know that you liked his hack! ~ellen