Cantonese Chicken Casserole (Boe Gai Fan)

September 12, 2014

in Cook What You Like, Main Dishes

Chinese Chicken CasseroleSomehow, starting back to school generates excitement.  Maybe it’s anticipation – new classmates, different schools and schedules, crowded calendars  – so many changes!

One thing that stays constant is Mom’s Chicken Casserole, a one-pot Cantonese dish.  Whether for lunch or a light snack, it starts in the kitchen with Mom cutting chicken pieces with a gleaming cleaver.  There is then the “paack!” – the sound of the cleaver’s side smashing fresh ginger root on a wooden cutting board.  If Mom doesn’t aim right, the ginger pieces go flying across the kitchen floor.  Instantaneously, the aroma of fresh ginger permeates the air.

Mom calls this home-cooked dish “boe gai fan” translating to “cook chicken rice.”  Chicken pieces are marinated in soy sauce, cooking wine, ground pepper, sesame seed oil, vegetable oil, and fresh ginger coins.  Cornstarch silkens the sauce. When half of the rice’s cooking water has evaporated, the chicken mixture is evenly spread on top of the rice and the cover replaced onto the pot.  No peeking for 20 minutes!

This recipe calls for boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat and half of the skin.  Don’t use chicken breasts as the white meat doesn’t deliver enough flavor.  Please do, however, use chicken still on the bone if you desire, traditional and more flavorful.  A delicious version is to use chicken wings, cutting each segment of wing  in half (save wing tips for chicken stock).  As the wings are thicker than boneless chicken pieces, longer cooking time is required.

Also, this easy and fast method for Boe Gai Fan is made in an automatic rice cooker/steamer requiring little attention.  Open a chilled bottle of or dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer and relax.

Recipe: Bow Gai Fan (Cantonese Chicken Casserole)

Use a low starch rice for this dish such as long grain white, or long o medium grain brown rice. If desired, thinly diagonally slice Chinese sausage into the chicken mixture.


  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked rice
  • small knob fresh ginger root
  • 2 chicken thighs with skin
  • 2 Tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame seed oil
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or peanut cooking oil
  • pinch finely ground white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • sliced green onions for garnish


  1. Prepare chicken and marinade: slice 2-3 ginger coins about 1/4″ thick. Stack the coins and smash with the side of a chef’s knife or cleaver. Put into a bowl large enough to hold chicken. Cut chicken meat off bones and remove half of the skin and excess fat if necessary.  Cut chicken meat into bite-size pieces, smaller than your thumb.  Combine the chicken and the ginger in the same bowl and add remaining ingredients except for the green onions. Mix well.
  2. Cook rice per package instructions kin an automatic rice cooker/steamer. When half of the rice’s cooking liquid has evaporated, evenly spread the chicken mixture evenly over the top of the rice. With chopsticks or the end of a wooden spoon, poke holes through the rice to the pot’s bottom to allow sauce to penetrate.  Let cook for 20-25 minutes – don’t peek!
  3. After cooking time has lapsed, gently mix cooked chicken in with rice. Not all of the rice will be sauced. Taste and if rice is not cooked all of the way (still crunchy), let cook longer (press down button on rice cooker). When plating, add more soy sauce if desired. Garnish with optional sliced green onions.

Serves 3.4.





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