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Chicken yu xiang

Sat, 19 June, 2021

The almond crunch and the cranberry sweetness may not be entirely orthodox in this chicken yu xiang recipe, but the end product is divine.

chicken yu xiang

What is yu xiang sauce like?

Yu xiang means ‘fish fragrant’. Before you recoil in horror of the prospect of fish flavoured chicken, let me assure you no fish is involved in the recipe, not even fish or oyster sauce. It’s just the Chinese way of expressing deliciousness in an ingenious manner.

The sauce it the salty-sweet marvel, so hard to encounter outside Asian cooking. I used to think it was impossible to cook Asian dishes well, if only for the number of condiments and ingredients you needed to store for the sole purpose of cooking stir fries.

But it’s completely a fallacy: ginger, garlic and soy sauce are really the staples, and I’m sure you use them not only in your chow meins.

chicken in 'fish fragrant' sauce

Substitutes for Asian recipes

It will NOT be 100% authentic, but the flavours still will be good if you substitute less often used or less easily available ingredients. Shaoxing wine can be replaced with dry sherry. Rice vinegar can be replaced with white wine vinegar.

And chilli bean sauce, toban djan, is first of all gorgeous enough to justify buying a jar, and secondly, any chilli paste will do at a push. Ketsap manis? Mix sugar into soy sauce. And for oyster sauce you could use some nutritional yeast or Marmite but don’t quote me on it.

But if you decide to stock up on authentics, I’m sure you won’t regret it. After all, that’s what makes the far away land food taste so good and is so difficult to imitate at home.

yu xiang sauce with chicken

How to cook yu xiang chicken?

Chicken yu xiang is a variety on the theme. Yu Xiang aubergine is one of my all-time favourite vegetarian dishes ever, possibly because aubergine is a good meat substitute, flavour- and texture-wise if not nutritionally.

I kept the aubergine in my recipe and added the chicken breast pieces, but you can omit the aubergine if you like. It will take about half an hour off your total cooking time!

The sauce is easy to make, starting with the garlic, ginger and spring onions in the wok, and adding the chilli paste and the liquid mix of soy sauce, honey and Shaoxing wine.

That’s all there is to it, the pickles which some recipes state as mandatory can be skipped if you use rice wine. I have also been known to add either pickled jalapeños or sushi ginger instead – both work well.

yu xiang chicken and aubergine

So you can make the sauce and dump the chicken pieces into it, like an afterthought, to let them cook in it as traditional recipes hold. Or like I have done, reverse the order and start with searing the chicken in the wok, then make the sauce around the chicken.

It is a gorgeous dish, best served with plain rice but if you’re a noodle monster, soak some rice or egg noodles to go with the chicken instead.

Chicken yu xiang

Servings: 2Time: 45 minutes


  • 1 large aubergine
  • salt
  • 1 large or 2 small skinless chicken fillets
  • 50g (3 tbsp.) blanched almonds
  • 50g (3 tbsp.) dried cranberries
  • 2 – 3 tbsp. groundnut oil
  • For the yu xiang sauce:
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated or pressed
  • 2cm (1 inch) piece of ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 3-4 spring onions, sliced (reserve some green slices for garnish)
  • 1 tbsp. chilli bean sauce (toban djan)
  • 60ml (¼ cup) Shaoxing wine
  • 3 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp corn flour mixed with 1 tbsp. water


1. Top and tail the aubergines and cut them into about 2 - 2.5cm dice. Toss with a little salt and set aside.

2. Dice the chicken fillets into pieces similar size.

3. Crush the almonds roughly with a rolling pin and toast them in a dry skillet until fragrant and coloured. Plump up the cranberries by rinsing them with boiling water, drain and set aside.

how to cook yu xiang chicken

4. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a wok or a large frying pan. Pat the aubergines dry with paper towels and add to the wok. Cook over medium heat turning and tossing frequently for about 20 minutes until the chunks are browned on all sides. Transfer the aubergine to a plate.

5. If the aubergine absorbed all the oil (salting them reduces that), add 1 tbsp. to the pan. When it’s hot, add the chicken pieces and brown them all over.

6. Add the garlic, ginger and spring onions, saving some of the sliced green part for garnish. Cook for 2-3 minutes over high heat, then stir in the chilli sauce.

7. Add the wine, vinegar, honey and soy sauce and cook until it simmers. Stir in the corn flour slurry and let it thicken and bubble.

8. Return the aubergines to the pan and stir well to coat in the sauce. Stir in half the almonds and half the cranberries.

9. Spoon the chicken to a serving dish or individual bowls, sprinkle with the remaining almonds, cranberries and spring onions. Serve with plain rice.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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