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Chinese Master Stock, Sichuan Lushui (卤水) Recipe

Servings: 2.5 quarts stock
Author: Kathy Yuan | The Mala Market | Inspiration & Ingredients for Sichuan Cooking

Equipment

  • stockpot preferably 6 quarts or larger
  • 2 quart Mason jars or similar for storing brine
  • cheesecloth or spice bag for submerging spices

Ingredients

Lushui Base

  • 1 whole organic pastured laomuji (old hen, look for "stewing hen") or chicken include addt'l feet, wings, neck, bones, etc. as desired, especially if not using stewing hen
  • 3-4 whole xiangye (bay leaves)
  • 4 whole dingxiang (cloves)
  • 3 pieces shannai/shajiang (dried sand ginger)
  • 2 whole caoguo (black cardamom), slightly cracked
  • 2 whole bajiao (star anise)
  • 1 whole guipi (cassia bark)
  • 1 tablespoon xiaohuixiang (fennel seed)
  • 2 teaspoons whole huajiao (Sichuan pepper) can mix green and red
  • 1 teaspoon whole hujiao (white pepper) optional
  • splash high-proof baijiu (>60% ABV, minimum 52%) or clear spirit like vodka
  • 2500 grams mineral water (or at least filtered) 2½ liters, approx. 10½ cups
  • 63 grams fine sea salt or 2.5% of water content
  • 1 knob mature ginger, washed and smashed
  • 1 bundle scallions, washed and tied in a knot
  • ½ cup Shaoxing yellow rice wine (huangjiu)
  • 75 grams bingtang (rock sugar), divided

For braising

  • pig ear, pig tail, pork trotters, pork hock, spare ribs, beef shank, short rib, etc

For serving

  • homemade chili oil
  • Mala Market dipping chilies

Instructions

For stock

  • Clean and separate the hen, cutting out the backbone, wings, wing tips, feet, neck and head. In a large bowl, wash and soak the parts in cold water to remove any blood water. Include any extra bones/parts being used at this stage as well.
  • Tie the spices into a cheesecloth or spice pouch (I used a tea infuser). In a small bowl, bloom the spices in a splash of high-proof clear spirit.
  • In a stockpot, add 2500 grams (2½ liters, approx. 10½ cups) cold mineral or filtered water or enough to fill at least halfway. Add 63 grams salt, or about 2.5% salt by weight.
  • Rinse the chicken parts thoroughly and add them to the stockpot with the smashed ginger, scallion knot and ½ cup of Shaoxing wine. Bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium heat. Once boiling, lower to a simmer and skim the surface foam for a clean broth. The key is doing so quickly before the fats render into oil, which will rise to the surface and bind to the scum, making it harder to separate the two.* 
    Once the foam is removed, add the spice bag. Simmer 1 hour, uncovered. Continue to skim any foam off occasionally.
    *Oil = flavor. Many spices are oil-soluble, not water-soluble. If you remove the oil, there will not be an effective vessel for the fragrance. Good lushui depends on its oil content.
  • After one hour, in a separate wok/saucepot over low heat, add most of the rock sugar, reserving a small handful (less than a tablespoon) to toss into the stockpot. Let the sugar melt on its own without stirring, until mostly melted and bubbling. Stir until dark red-amber and fully bubbling.
    Pour a ladleful of broth into the caramel to stop it from cooking further. Stir, then pour caramel into the stockpot and continue simmering.
  • Somewhere around 2-2.5 hours in, the old hen meat gets fall-apart tender and juicy while maintaining a great chew. I like to fish out the meatiest parts to eat/save at this point, strip the carcass and throw back in the bones and skins to continue cooking until it's time to jar the broth.

For braising

  • At this point, you can either cook your first batch of luwei meats and veggies, or let the brine sit for 12 hours with the spice bag to soak up all the flavors and store later (instructions in next step).

How to store your lushui

  • After every use, the most important steps are to 1) skim/strain any leftover cooking debris and 2) return the pot to a boil for a couple minutes, lid on or off depending on below:
    If storing brine in the fridge for use within 3-5 days, do not cover the pot (or jar) until it has cooled completely! The condensed steam that collects under the lid will drip back above the solidified fat layer that seals the broth, making it likely to spoil. Transfer to sterilized jars after boiling and let cool before covering. At this point, you can also freeze the stock for infrequent use. For freezing, trapped steam is less of a problem but I've found it does contribute to iciness. To use, thaw in fridge overnight.
    If storing brine on the counter (in the pot), for use within 2 days, return pot to boiling, cover, boil two minutes with the lid on and do not open the lid again after. Let cool on its own.

For serving

  • Luwei are often served sliced and cold as one of the first dishes on the table, a good appetizer to snack on before the hot dishes come (especially if you're drinking). Because the broth is flavored, sliced luwei is served plain or dressed with a simple chili oil or "dipping chilies" (干碟, gāndié).