Culinary Adventures, Eats, Recipes
Comments 18

The Shanghai Chicken Project


The premise

I’ve followed the blog Sybaritica for a while and I enjoy John’s experimental and honest love of Asian cuisine. It was there I found out about The Shanghai Chicken Project and his buddy Stefan’s Gourmet Blog.

The Shanghai Chicken Project is based on a mysterious chili chicken dish of dubious origin with pine nuts and broccoli leaves.

If you have been following my blog for a while, you’ll know I love a good foodie challenge. I also happened to have some premium New Zealand pine nuts and a fermented chili paste I was hoping to play with so it like it was meant to be.


The Shanghai Chicken Project rules:

  • Prepare a dish inspired by Bamboo Restaurant’s Shanghai Chicken.
  • It has to include chicken, chiles of some sort, vegetable greens, and nuts.
  • It could be a known recipe or one of your own — traditional or newly invented.
  • Blog about your dish or send Stefan photos and a description of what you did.


Lee Kum Kee’s Chili bean sauce (Toban Djan)

Toban Djan is a Sichuan-style chili paste made from a blend of salted chili, fermented broadbeans and fermented soybeans and garlic. In terms of heat, this is a very mild sauce and I’d have no problem serving it to kids. A good savoury hit and a nice introduction to fermented flavours. Great for dunking dumplings into or for making flavoursome Chinese dishes. I thought the garlic and soy bean component would be a good match for The Shanghai Chicken Project. You should be able to find this at any asian supermarket. I don’t know of any Western substitutes, but you could possibly use the Korean version Gochujang if you had nothing else.


Cavolo Nero

We received a big bag of Cavolo Nero kale in our Naturally Organic box this week. Cavolo Nero is also known as black cabbage, tuscan cabbage, tuscan kale or dinosaur kale and frequently stars in Italian cooking. It has a flavour and dark blue-green colour similar to broccoli leaves. You can substitute for silverbeet (swiss chard), spinach, broccolini or dark leafy Chinese greens like gai lan.


Toban Djan Chicken and Kale Yellow Rice

Serves 2

Toban Djan Chicken Ingredients
4 chicken thighs (boneless, skinless)
2 tablespoons chili bean sauce (toban djan)
1 tablespoon oil

Kale Yellow Rice Ingredients
1 cup rice
1/2 onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, skinned and chopped finely
2 tablespoons butter
4 kale leaves (cavolo nero)
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste

To serve
1 spring onion (scallion), sliced
1 tablespoon lightly toasted pine nuts


  1. Preheat oven to 160°C
  2. Cook rice as per usual. When cooked, fluff up and reserve until required.
  3. Make 3 cuts across each chicken thigh. Spoon chili bean sauce on top and rub/brush in to coat evenly.
  4. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a ovenproof skillet. When the pan is hot, place chicken cut side down, season with salt and cook over a medium-high flame for 5 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side for another 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer the skillet into the oven and bake for 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked and juices run clear.
  6. Wash and dry kale, tear out the central stem/rib from each leaf and discard. Roll the kale up and slice into fine ribbons (chiffonade).
  7. Take a large pan and melt the butter over medium flame. Add the onion and garlic and cook until onion is just starting to go golden, around 5 minutes. Add the chopped kale, turmeric and curry powder. Cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the cooked rice and stir until evenly combined and rice is evenly yellow. Taste and season with salt and pepper to your taste.
  8. Serve rice on warmed plates with 2 pieces of chicken on top. Garnish with toasted pine nuts and spring onion (scallion).


The Koala and I both pronounced this dish delicious. The combination of the tasty fermented bean sauce and the juicy thighs was really good and I hope you enjoy this too.


  1. That does look good! When I read about the project, I was wondering how it was going to be interpreted. Isn’t that awesome to see how different cooks come up with the same thing? If you guys decide to do this again, I’m in!

    • Variations of chicken and rice are so common all over the world. It would be fun to see a round up of chicken and rice listed by country.

  2. Excellent take …

    Amazing coincidence though … you mentioned using Gochujang as a substitute for Doubanjian and I ended up using both in my project entry (also… I *just* made kale rice for a different meal a few days ago) 🙂

    I wish I could photograph like you 😦

    • Thanks John. The biggest thing I have learned about photographing food is it has to be done natural daylight. It’s winter here and we don’t have any natural daylight by the time I get home from work so I have to do my cooking and blogging in the weekend.

      I haven’t actually tried Gochujang. How does it differ? Is it spicier than Doubanjian?

  3. You and Koala pronounce this dish delicious… I definitely believe you!!! It looks wonderful!

  4. Pingback: My Entry for the International “Shanghai Chicken” Project | Stefan's Gourmet Blog

  5. Nice! interesting how you brought in some turmeric and curry into the mix turning taking this dish to another level, i bet it was delicious! I’m digging this shanghai chicken project, learning tons and meeting awesome bloggers out there! Great pics!!!

  6. sharmin says

    what other vegetable would you serve/eat with this dish?

I love your comments! Your comments are like extra melted cheese on top.

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