Dong’an chicken is one of the signature dishes in Hunan Province in China. A little research turned up that the Chinese will also use pheasant for this recipe — pheasants, after all, are native to Asia, not North America.
This recipe makes two meals, really: A lovely stir-fry filled with all kinds of Chinese flavors, and then, if you have leftovers, a warming soup the following day. You cook the chicken or pheasant in a little stock boosted with some Asian flavors and then shred the meat for the stir-fry. Let the bones simmer a little longer in the stock and you have an excellent Chinese broth. Hell, it would even be a great base for cheap ramen noodles!
Real Chinese cooking requires some unusual ingredients, such as Shaoxing wine, black vinegar, Sichuan peppercorns and star anise. Many of these are available in regular supermarkets, although the black vinegar can be tough to locate; substitute rice vinegar if you can’t get it.
A word on the lard: According to Fuschia Dunlop’s Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province — where I first learned about this recipe — lard is a common cooking fat in Hunan. Who knew?
Three tips on succeeding with this dish: a) Cook the pheasant at or below a simmer to keep the meat tender, b) do your very best to find the ingredients listed below, and c) get the wok screaming hot for the stir-fry. It makes a huge difference!
- 2 whole pheasants
- 3 quarts water, or 1 quart water and 2 quarts chicken stock
- A 4-inch piece of ginger, cut in half
- 6 green onions, divided
- 3 star anise pods
- 1-3 fresh hot chiles, preferably red serranos or cayenne
- 6-8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin
- 4 Tbsp lard or peanut oil
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 Tbsp Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
- 3-4 Tbsp Chinese black vinegar or rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon potato or corn starch mixed with 1 Tbsp cold water
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- Bring the water and/or stock to a simmer in a large pot and add the whole pheasants. Slice half the ginger thinly and add to the pot. Smash 3 green onions with the flat side of a knife, then chop roughly and add to the pot. Add the star anise and bring everything to a bare simmer.
- Cook the pheasants for 15 minutes, then remove them. Pull off all the breast meat and return what’s left to the pot. Continue simmering until the leg meat can be easily pulled off the bone, about 40 more minutes. When the legs are ready, fish them out and pull off all the meat.
- Shred the pheasant meat into bite-sized strips. Keep the broth at a bare simmer for another hour, then strain and use for another recipe — it is fantastic as a base for any leftovers you have making this recipe. You go from a stir-fry to a soup on the second day.
- While the pheasant simmers, seed the chiles and slice into very fine slivers lengthwise.
- Peel and cut the rest of the ginger into thin rectangles, then slice those rectangles into very thin slivers like the chiles.
- Do the same for the remaining green onions: Slice them at an extreme diagonal so you get long slivers. Don’t mix these with the ginger and chiles. Set all the veggies aside for now.
- Heat a wok or a large saute pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the shiitake mushrooms and cook, shaking the pan often, until they shrink, lose their water, and begin to brown. When they do, remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.
- Add the lard to the wok and allow it to heat up for 1 minute. Add the chiles, ginger and Sichuan peppercorns to the wok and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and the pheasant meat and stir-fry another 1-2 minutes.
- Add the Shaoxing wine, black vinegar and up to 1/2 cup of the pheasant stock to make a sauce. Stir-fry this 1 minute, then add the potato starch-water mixture and toss to combine; this should thicken the sauce. Cook 1 more minute.
- Turn off the heat, add salt to taste and toss in the sesame oil and the slivers of green onion. Serve over simple white rice with a beer.