What is Tianfry?
Tianfry 和炒 is a popular Chinese comfort food made with chicken and rice. Tianfry literally translates as ‘harmony/peace-fry’. As the name suggests, the dish is supposed to be eaten together with rice. The dish uses chicken legs (or thighs) and is stir-fried with ginger, spring onions and a mix of soy sauces. The chicken is then coated with cornflour, which gives the meat a nice crisp texture when it is fried. This is a Cantonese dish, and is often served as a late night snack in dim sum restaurants. If you’re a fan of chicken, you’re in luck: according to research from the Meat and Livestock Association, chicken is the most popular meat in the world, and has been increasing in popularity over the last five years. This is probably due to the many dishes you can make with it, as well as its affordability. The versatility of chicken is also another reason why it is so popular: it can be prepared in almost any way, and is often the go-to meat when people want something quick and easy to cook.
Why is it so important to you?
I guess I’ll begin by telling you why tianfry has been so important to me. When I was growing up, my parents ran a small Chinese takeout store, and during the summer holiday, I would help them out in the restaurant. In a way, this was my first job – and it was definitely a very busy one. We ran a very small business, yet we saw a lot of footfall. We had a lot of regulars and people travelling long distances to eat our food. As a result, we had very little time to ourselves and rarely had weekends off because we were always open. Tianfry was a dish we regularly made for customers. My role was to prepare the chicken for frying and the rice. I would have to prepare a large quantity of each because we did not have a rice cooker in those days. I would have to tend the wok and stir fry the chicken while simultaneously making rice on a normal stovetop. I would often have to fry the chicken and prepare the rice concurrently. In other words, I had to do both tasks at the same time: frying the chicken and making rice. It was a very hectic period in my life, and I often had to work long hours. Despite this, it was a very rewarding experience and helped me develop my culinary skills that have stood me in good stead ever since.
Step 1: Preparing the chicken
The first step in making tianfry is to prepare the chicken. You can use either chicken legs or chicken thighs for this dish. Both will produce similar results. Brine the chicken to ensure a moist texture once cooked. You can use a basic brine solution to do this. Alternatively, you can use a Chinese brine solution. The latter will give a stronger flavour to the chicken once cooked, which makes it perfect for this dish. You may want to consider removing the skin from the chicken legs or thighs before you cook them. Doing so will reduce their fat content, which will make them healthier to eat. You can either do this using a pair of kitchen scissors or a pair of sharp knives. Alternatively, you can buy pre-skinned chicken legs or thighs.
Step 2: Marinating the chicken
The second step in making tianfry is to marinate the chicken. The marinade consists of oil, salt, sugar, cornflour and soy sauce. The soy sauce used in this dish is a combination of both dark soy sauce and light soy sauce. Cubes of ginger and spring onions are added to the marinade to provide flavour and fragrance to the chicken. You can choose to marinate the chicken for as little as 30 minutes or as long as 24 hours. The longer you marinate the chicken, the stronger the flavours will be. Once you are done marinating the chicken, you can proceed to the next step.
Step 3: Deep-frying the chicken
The third step in making tianfry is to deep-fry the chicken. You can use a wok for this, or a large saucepan. Heat the oil and wait for the temperature to reach 190°C. Scoop the chicken from the marinade and add it to the wok/saucepan. Cook the chicken until it is golden brown and crispy. Drain the oil and let the chicken cool before proceeding to the next step. You can use either vegetable oil or corn oil to deep fry the chicken. Vegetable oil has a strong flavour, but is cheaper than other oils. Corn oil, on the other hand, has a neutral flavour and is often used in Chinese cuisine as it can withstand high temperatures without changing the taste of the dish.
Step 4: Tenderizing the chicken
The fourth step in making tianfry is to tenderize the chicken. Tenderizing it will break down the connective tissue that holds the protein fibres together. This will help the chicken become softer, juicier and more tender. You can do this using the following methods: Whichever method you choose, make sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked after the process.
Step 5: Cooking Dark Soy Sauce (濃醬油) flavour rice
The fifth step in making tianfry is to cook the rice. Use long grain rice, and cook it in boiling water. The rice should be soft and fluffy when done. You can use any rice for this, but if you want the dish to taste like tianfry, you need to use the light soy sauce flavour rice. You can use a rice cooker to prepare the rice, or alternatively, follow the instructions on the packaging. Remember to use long grain rice for this dish.
Step 6: Cooking Light Soy Sauce (浓醬油) flavour rice
The sixth step in making tianfry is to cook the Rice in light soy sauce flavour. It is essentially the same as the one above, except that you use long grain rice with light soy sauce flavour. It is important to use the light soy sauce flavour rice in this dish because it is what gives the dish its distinct taste. The ingredients used to make the light soy sauce flavour rice are different compared to that of the long grain rice in dark soy sauce flavour. You can use a rice cooker to prepare both types of rice, or you can follow the instructions on the packaging. Remember to use long grain rice for both types of rice.
Tianfry 和炒 is a popular Chinese comfort food made with chicken and rice. The dish uses chicken legs (or thighs) and is stir-fried with ginger, spring onions and a mix of soy sauces. The chicken is then coated with cornflour, which gives the meat a nice crisp texture when it is fried. It is a Cantonese dish, and is often served as a late night snack in dim sum restaurants.