“I wanted something a little more complicated — something I could sink my teeth into as a chef,” he said.
As he was wracking his brain to think of a creative approach to chicken, he received a text message from his seafood purveyor offering a special on saltwater eel.
“I thought, that could work,” Cheung said.
Cheung purchases chicken from Chinese wholesale purveyors in New York who slaughter chickens to order without processing them further. He brines the chicken in a mixture of sugar, salt, water, cumin, coriander seed and coriander root.
He chops the eel finely and stuffs it under the chicken’s skin. He smokes the eel-stuffed chicken with warm cherry wood smoke for about 45 minutes, then finishes it in a low oven, around 180 degrees Fahrenheit, basting the chicken with a mixture of Southern Comfort liquor, brown sugar, cumin, coriander, pepper and soy sauce for the better part of a day, until it reaches an internal temperature of around 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
When a customer orders the dish, he heats the chicken quickly in a hot oven and serves it with glazed spring vegetables and a relish of ginger, scallions and smoked braised ham hocks.
The dish is priced at $29.
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