It’s hard not to love a dish made up of rice, chicken and eggs. Growing up I ate a lot of bowls of rice topped with chicken or eggs, but never really together, until I had oyako-don. Oyako-don means parent and child, which is fitting if you think about how you’re eating a hen and it’s egg. Traditional oyako-don is a delicious saucy mess of chicken and onions stewed in dashi, mirin and soy sauce. Lightly beaten eggs are added to the mix until barely cooked and the whole thing is put on top of a steaming bowl of rice. The saucy eggs mixed into white rice is divine.
Chang’s Chicken and Egg was inspired by oyako-don, but is nothing like traditional oyako-dons you find in most Japanese restaurants. The chicken is cold-smoked for understated smokiness, onions are eliminated, and eggs are slow-poached.
Compared to regular oyako-dons, Momofuku’s chicken and egg is a long process. Again, like many of his recipes, when you have everything prepared in advance, cooking time is not long, but the preparation is what kills you.
The recipe calls for boneless legs but I substituted drumsticks, just because my local grocery store didn’t have whole legs at the time. I deboned the drumsticks, which I actually like doing. My mom taught me how to debone chicken when I was pretty young. I wanted to have a Japanese themed birthday party with homemade teriyaki chicken and of course she didn’t want to spend the extra money on deboned chicken. Deboning 10+ pounds of chicken gave me a lot of practice so now I’m pretty fast at it.
After deboning, the chicken is cold-smoked, or if you don’t have a kettle grill (who does?) you can confit the chicken legs in pork fat with bacon in a 180˚F oven.
After 50 minutes in oven, the chicken is removed and completely cooled until the fat becomes solid again. I always wonder though, if pork fat solidifies so easily, what happens when we eat it? Does it solidify in our veins?! Sometimes, curiosity is not a good thing. Anyway, once your chicken is completely cool you can leave it in the fridge for up to a week.
When you’re ready to eat and you’ve had the foresight to have your chicken and slow-poached eggs waiting for you in the fridge, the dish is really easy to put together. Start off by making some rice. I don’t know about yours, but my rice cooker takes about 45 minutes to cook rice. On top of that I recently bought a bag of koshihikari rice which needed to soak in water for 30 minutes before cooking.
Needless to say, even with my planning ahead, we still had a long wait ahead of us. While the rice cooker was doing it’s thing I made some quick-pickled cucumbers. Then I pan-fried the chicken skin side down in a cast-iron skillet using another cast-iron skillet to weigh it down.
When the rice was cooked, the eggs warmed under hot tap water, the chicken pan-fried, the green onions sliced and the cucumbers quick-pickled it was easy to toss everything into a bowl. And what a bowl it was! Perfect eats on a rainy day. Smoky, crisp-skinned chicken, crunchy cucumbers, poached egg broken into sticky short grain rice all came together into a glorious mess of flavours. This is comfort food at its best: simple, satisfying, warm-your-soul deliciousness.