If you’ve ever wondered why char-grilled meat and pizza cooked in a wood-burning oven taste better, it’s because of the smoke. Smoking enhances the flavor of food. Meat and fish, the most widely smoked food, acquires not only a distinctive smoky flavor but also the aroma and flavor of the materials burned to produce the smoke. Most houses are not equipped with a smokehouse but there is an alternative. It is still possible to do the smoking on the stovetop. That’s how I did this tea-smoked chicken.
In this recipe, chicken was smoked using spices and dried tea. Very basic cooking equipment were used — a rack and a wok.
But will dried tea and spices produce smoke without being burned? Yes, they will. And the smoke they emit will give the chicken such a wonderful flavor and aroma.
Whole chicken is traditionally smoked but at the time I experimented with smoking using a wok, all I had were chicken leg quarters. I was raring to find out if I could really manage to do the smoking at home so never mind if I didn’t use a whole chicken. How did it go? I’ll cut to the chase and tell you right now — it was a success. When I tasted the chicken, my mind started whirling about all the other possibilities — all the other spices and herbs and fruit peels that I can use and the various combinations that I intend to try.
So, whether you want to try this with chicken quarters or a whole chicken, here’s how:
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Leave for a few hours in the fridge to allow the seasonings to penetrate the meat.
Take a large wok and cover with two layers of aluminum foil. Into the foil covered wok throw in half a cup of your favorite tea (I used a combination of genmaicha and green tea leaves), a piece of star anise (or a cinnamon bark), a teaspoonful of Sichuan peppercorns, the peel of one orange and a tablespoonful of brown sugar.
Cover the wok, turn on the stove keeping the temperature on medium.
Meanwhile, steam the chicken over briskly boiling water for five minutes.
Uncover the wok. The tea and the rest of the ingredients should be smoking by now. Place a rack inside the wok and arrange the chicken on the rack. Cover the wok tightly and smoke the chicken for an hour and a half to two hours.
And that’s it, really. You’ll be amazed at the flavors and the aroma of tea-smoked chicken.