Alvin’s Drunken Chicken

Drunken chicken.

IMG_4958I don’t drink. Well rarely. Most of my wine collection/liqueur cabinet is given over to culinary pursuits – vodka for vanilla and rose essence; rum because I went to Barbados, ginger wine…just because, Pernod for use in fennel recipes, which by the way leads me to ask….when last did you see a fennel recipe on this blog?

I used to get laughed at by office folk when we went out for drinks ‘You’re only having a coke? Or water’. Then would follow the scoff, smile or snicker……which eventually (I think) gave way to respect when all the bullying didn’t wear me down. My response every time was ‘I prefer to eat my alcohol, not drink it’. And I have. Wine poached fruit and now drunken chicken. When Gary, a judge on the 2nd season (2010) of Masterchef Australia proclaimed contestant Alvin’s drunken chicken as the best thing he’d had in the competition, I wrote it down. Bookmarked it and considered it done.

A couple of weeks ago, I emptied the contents of my 2 year old bottle of Shaoxing rice wine, using more in 10 minutes than I had in 24 months. But it wasn’t enough for a whole chicken, which I didn’t have at home anyhow and so I used up a kilo of leftover mussels. I enjoyed it more than I’d enjoyed any mussel dish in a while and it set me up for what was to follow.

IMG_4963The purchase of 2 bottles of Shaoxing rice wine (so running out wouldn’t be an option), the acquisition of a young tasty bird and the hunting of all my Chinese cookbooks for variations of the theme. Because though drunken mussels were great, the recipe I saw….the one that spoke to me had chicken in it.


What a breeze: make a poaching liquid. Gently lower your whole chicken (no knives muddied, no fingers chopped…nothing) in and leave to simmer. Then go watch TV, Sound of Music, Toy story 3 or Fame and wait excitedly. Once ready, chop and serve. With some rice or salad on the side…….or just on its own.

Again, my family surprised me – my husband thought it was ‘different’, I liked the tenderness of the chicken but wasn’t hot on the flavours – the Shaoxing flavours overpowered it and I had to have a healthy touch of soy sauce to balance the peculiar flavours. Both daughters could not stop eating it though. They had piece, after piece, after piece. And the son? Didn’t touch it, in a manner common to almost 4-year old boys who eat by sight.

What I did get out of it was the wonderful results the ‘poaching’  technique can produce. And so I tried another experiment: chicken legs gently simmered in a mixture of coconut milk and water, cubes of frozen Thai green curry paste, lemon grass stalks, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce, sugar and a touch of my fine Bajan rum. Wow. The end result – a steaming, light , fragrant and incredibly tasty sauce, ladled over Thai Hom Mali – soft jasmine scented rice, which also met with approval from everyone almost everyone.

Poaching ladies and gents, is the new ‘easy cook’. Guaranteed to succeed.

Onto the recipes

Drunken Chicken, adapted from Alvin’s on Masterchef Australia

1 litre Shaoxing rice wine
500ml mirin or more to taste
1-2 litres water, or enough to cover chicken
80g gula melaka (Malaysian palm sugar), or more to taste
1 whole chicken
Salt, to taste
1 star anise
Spring onions (cleaning out the fridge)
Pickled sushi ginger (leftover)
4-6cm fresh ginger, thickly sliced


IMG_5135Place the shaoxing, mirin, water and palm sugar in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the chicken, star anise, spring onions and ginger, then cover and simmer gently for 45-60 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the chicken to cool in the poaching liquid. Reserve the poaching liquid. freeze and re-use if you like.

IMG_4914 IMG_4919

Bruised salad

3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbs roasted peanuts
1 tbs dried shrimp, soaked, drained
2 bird’s eye chillies
2 lime cheeks
6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
6 snake beans, cut into 4cm lengths
2 Lebanese cucumbers, peeled, cut into matchsticks
1 tsp sesame oil
Salad dressing
2 tbs very finely chopped gula melaka (Malaysian palm sugar)
Juice of 2 limes
2-3 tbs fish sauce


Place the garlic, peanuts and dried shrimp in a mortar and pestle and pound to a coarse paste. Add the chillies and bruise gently – the amount of heat you want from this salad depends on how hard you bruise the chillies. Add the lime cheeks and bruise to release some juice.

Add the cherry tomatoes, beans and cucumber and mix through gently with a spoon.


For the dressing, place the palm sugar and lime juice in a bowl and whisk to dissolve the sugar. Add fish sauce to taste and whisk to combine.


To serve, add enough dressing to coat the salad and then taste – it should be a good balance of sweet, salty and sour. Add sesame oil and mix to combine. Pile the salad onto a plate and drizzle with sesame oil.
Remove the chicken from the broth and place on a chopping board.


To serve chicken and salad

Cut off the legs (thigh and drumstick), then chop off the end of the drumstick and trim the end so it is free of skin. Cut the legs into 2 pieces through the joint. Slice the breasts off the carcass and cut each one cut into 5 thick slices. Place the pieces of chicken in a shallow bowl, pour over a little broth and serve with the bruised salad.

Drunken chicken by others

Pig Pig’s Corner ingeniously uses Marylands– drumsticks with thighs attached. So you don’t have to worry about having a whole bird.

Frills in the Hills made a slow cooker meal of it, with rice

JeffHa makes a point of keeping the stock and reusing if for future Drunken episodes. I concur as my stock is freezing away while I think of how to adjust the flavours and get them right – the way I like!

[wpurp-searchable-recipe]Alvin’s Drunken Chicken – – – [/wpurp-searchable-recipe]


  1. Another inspiring idea Oz, thank you. I often poach chicken but as Steve says, usually in preparation of making other dishes. Masterchef has made critics out of all of us hasn’t it, but I have to say this dish looks & sounds awesome.

  2. I personally don’t mind being a drunken chef, so I’m very happy with any “drunken” recipe. Given the choice between eating my alcohol or drinking…I’d still rather eat it.

  3. As a food blogger, I feel I should watch Masterchef – but I don’t. I have caught bits of it here and there, but not watched a whole series.
    However, I do love poaching a chicken. The gentle simmering and slow cooling in the liquid leave you with a wonderfully moist bird – not sure about all that booze, though.

  4. okay drunken chicken sounds so much better then beer can chicken, lol chicken grilled over a full can of the bruised salad strike my tastes, love the motar and pestle shot..have a great week!


  5. I use more alcohol in my cooking than I drink, I am a sucker for liqueurs and wine. The chicken looks so succulent, what a great dish!

  6. I wondered if you meant “our” Alvin when I read the title of this post, and indeed you did!

    I have little time for people who think it’s ok to pass comment on other people’s lack of drinking. I wonder if they’d be so quick to speak up if someone was drinking too much?

  7. That’s about as easy a recipe as I’ve seen. I’m not a huge poultry fan so your salad is what really appeals to me – great colors!

  8. I really like poaching chicken but it certainly isn’t as aesthetic as a roast! Cooking for your family is often a bit challenging isn’t it?! Glad to hear I’m not the only one who gets a “Materchef” style critique when I serve something up.

  9. He he, I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never watched a full Masterchef episode and here you are watching all the way from the Netherlands! Dedicated, that’s what you are. Dedicated to your craft, and to pursuing flavours and techniques. Looks like you were amply rewarded. I must say I do like the flavour of the wine and splash it into quite a lot of things so bottles don’t last long round here 🙂

    • Shaz, I’m a Masterchef Australia addict – by far the BEST cooking program I’ve seen in a while. And best thing of all, my who family loved that we could watch it together as it was on early enough in the evening, even though it was months old…..

  10. Anything ‘drunken’ has always been of interest as obviously the flavor of the alcohol will still be pretty present, no? Guess not if it is able to cook for a good amount of time. It looks very tender! Bet you could turn the leftover meat into another meal and perhaps trick your son into eating it. 🙂

  11. What a beeaautiful bird! Sometimes just adding a clove of garlic, salt and a full onion in the water and then serving it with sweet soy and fresh chili on the side is awesome. Gosh I’m hungry now thanks to you! 

  12. I remember watching Alvin make this on Masterchef Australia and I’ve been dying to try it, but a little afraid! It looks so yummy, I’ll have this page up on my iPad when I try it out!

  13. A dish I’m a little ambivalent about, Oz – I struggle with the overpowering wine flavour as well. My mother loves it though! Your chicken looks moist and luscious, and I can’t believe you’ve been watching Australian Masterchef, girl!! 🙂

  14. I LOVE poached chicken, but usually do it as a stepping stone to another dish, a chicken salad, or pot of chicken soup. I’ve never cooked with rice wine, but have been meaning to go to the huge Asian market nearby to get some pantry staples. I’ll be sure to get some then and make this lovely looking dish. – S

  15. Yes Oz, this sounds great! I like that you hold your ground. I’m the same way, I won’t be pressured into something I don’t want to do! But I do enjoy a drink now and then and I enjoy eating my alcohol too! That ginger wine is calling my name I have to find some. I will try this for sure…no pressure! 😀

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