Why This Recipe Works
The main component of the braising liquid for the traditional red-cooked chicken recipe is dark soy sauce, which is a slightly thicker soy sauce that is aged longer than standard soy sauce and is sweetened with molasses to give it its distinctive appearance and slightly bittersweet flavor. It’s intense stuff and our first versions of this recipe came on too strong. We scaled back the amount in subsequent tests, making up for the decreased volume with chicken broth, Chinese rice cooking wine (or dry sherry), and a few tablespoons of sesame oil. Light brown sugar added enough richness to balance the flavor and adding just three pieces of star anise and 1 teaspoon of peppercorns to our red-cooked chicken recipe invested the broth with an inviting warmth and aroma.