Cantonese-style Steamed Chicken: A Tender and Flavorful Delight

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Cantonese-style Steamed Chicken is a classic Chinese dish that highlights the natural flavors of chicken with minimal seasoning. This traditional method of cooking preserves the chicken’s tenderness and juiciness, creating a healthy and delicious meal. Known for its simplicity and clean taste, Cantonese-style Steamed Chicken is often served during festive occasions and family gatherings, showcasing the culinary heritage of southern China.

Culinary Heritage and Significance

In Cantonese cuisine, steaming is a preferred cooking method that allows ingredients to retain their natural flavors and nutrients. Steamed dishes are valued for their health benefits and light, refreshing taste. Cantonese-style Steamed Chicken, with its emphasis on freshness and simplicity, exemplifies this culinary tradition by using minimal seasoning to enhance the chicken’s natural sweetness and tenderness.


To prepare Cantonese-style Steamed Chicken, gather the following ingredients:

For the Chicken:

  • Whole Chicken: 1 (about 3-4 lbs or 1.5-2 kg), preferably free-range
  • Ginger: 3-4 slices, plus additional for garnish
  • Scallions: 2 stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Salt: 1 tsp
  • Sugar: 1 tsp
  • Soy Sauce: 2 tbsp
  • Shaoxing Wine or Dry Sherry: 1 tbsp
  • Sesame Oil: 1 tsp

For Garnish (Optional):

  • Cilantro: Fresh, chopped
  • Scallions: Sliced

Preparation and Cooking Instructions

  1. Prepare the Chicken:
    • Rinse the whole chicken under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
    • Rub the chicken inside and out with salt and sugar. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
    • Rinse off the salt and sugar, then pat dry again.
  2. Marinate the Chicken:
    • Rub the chicken inside and out with soy sauce and Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry).
    • Place ginger slices and scallion pieces inside the cavity of the chicken.
  3. Steam the Chicken:
    • Fill a large steamer pot or wok with water, making sure the water level is below the steaming rack.
    • Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
    • Place the chicken on a heatproof dish or plate that fits inside the steamer.
    • Steam the chicken over high heat for about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken, until cooked through. Pierce the thickest part of the chicken with a skewer or knife; the juices should run clear when done.
  4. Finish the Dish:
    • Carefully remove the steamed chicken from the steamer.
    • Drizzle sesame oil over the chicken.
    • Garnish with additional ginger slices and, if desired, chopped cilantro and sliced scallions.
  5. Serve:
    • Transfer the Cantonese-style Steamed Chicken to a serving platter.
    • Serve hot with steamed rice and a light dipping sauce made of soy sauce and sesame oil, if desired.

Tips for Perfect Cantonese-style Steamed Chicken

  • Chicken Quality: Use a fresh, high-quality whole chicken for the best flavor and texture.
  • Steamer Setup: Ensure the steamer is large enough to accommodate the chicken without overcrowding.
  • Even Cooking: Check the chicken’s internal temperature or doneness by testing the thigh meat; it should register 165°F (74°C) on a meat thermometer.

Serving Suggestions

Cantonese-style Steamed Chicken can be served:

  • As a Main Dish: Serve with steamed jasmine rice and stir-fried vegetables for a complete meal.
  • During Festive Occasions: Ideal for celebrations and family gatherings, showcasing the simplicity and elegance of Cantonese cuisine.
  • With Dipping Sauce: Offer a light dipping sauce of soy sauce and sesame oil on the side for additional flavor.

Nutritional Benefits

  • Chicken: High in protein, low in fat, and rich in essential vitamins and minerals like niacin and selenium.
  • Ginger and Scallions: Provide antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, enhancing overall health benefits.


Cantonese-style Steamed Chicken is a dish that embodies the essence of Cantonese culinary tradition—simple, healthy, and full of flavor. By following this recipe, you can recreate a dish that celebrates the natural sweetness and tenderness of chicken, showcasing the art of steaming in Chinese cuisine. Whether enjoyed during a special occasion or as a comforting family meal, Cantonese-style Steamed Chicken promises to delight with its clean, delicate taste and cultural significance, offering a taste of southern China’s rich culinary heritage in every tender bite.

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Written by Robert Zelesky

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