Precious Liquid


A Chinese masterstock almost defies our modern culinary sensibilities. A stock that is used, over and over again, for years, even generations, seemingly without end? It seems that there are masterstocks in China that have been in use for more than a hundred years. Restaurants maintain their masterstocks by keeping it at a constant simmer when not in use. This keeps the stock from spoiling. Homecooks maintain their masterstock by straining and immediately refridgerating or freezing it straight after use.

Before I moved to Toowoomba, I maintained a masterstock for more than a year. It wasn’t feasible to keep it over our move ( I had more than a week in transit on my way over), so I had to kiss it goodbye. And for some reason I didn’t think of starting a new one until this week. I bought some chicken maryland and it suddenly occured to me that they would perfect, cooked in some masterstock. So I set about making a new masterstock.

It’s a relatively simple thing to start a masterstock. You can find all the ingredients in a good supermarket or Asian grocer. And, if you can’t find all the ingredients to start with, you can just add it later. You’ll need some light and dark soy sauce, Chinese rice wine, star anise, cinnamon, garlic, ginger and spring onions. Some recipes include dried licorice root and orange peel. I didn’t have those, but I’ll use them at a later stage.

Chinese masterstocks are basically used for poaching and braising things like chicken, duck and pork. Each time you use the stock, replenish it with the original ingredients and add water to make up the 6 litres of stock that you would have started with. Over time the flavours in the stock intensify and the colour deepens – so basically it will make your dishes more and more delicious, the more you use it. Yum.

After cooking with the masterstock, you will need to strain the liquid and either put it in the fridge or freeze it. If you plan to use it everyweek, it’s fine to just keep it in the fridge. If you don’t end up using it, just take it out and give it a good boil for about 20 minutes, then put it back in the fridge. Otherwise just freeze and defrost when you need it.

This is my recipe for making soy sauce chicken, which is simply chicken poached in masterstock. (The link for Kylie Kwong’s masterstock recipe will follow).We had it for dinner last night, very simply served with sliced cucumber, freshly made chilli and ginger sauce, and some rice. It was amazingly good for so simple a meal. The chicken was succulently sweet and deeply flavoured from the masterstock, and the chilli sauce added zing. And then a slice of cool cucumber balances it all together. Deeelicious!  


Soy Sauce Chicken

Serves 3-4


3 pieces chicken maryland

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1/2 cup sliced ginger

1/2 cup dark soy sauce

3 spring onions

1/2 cup shao hsing wine

Enough masterstock to completely cover the chicken


Place all the ingredients except the chicken in a wok or pan

Bring to boil and simmer for 20 minutes

Add the chicken and allow to return to a very slow simmer for 15 minutes

Take the wok/pot off heat and leave to cool for an hour

Remove chicken carefully from the masterstock, debone and slice

Serve with rice, sliced cucumber and ginger chilli sauce (recipe below)

Ginger Chilli Sauce

100g red chillis,

1 clove garlic, peeled

2 inch knob of ginger, peeled and sliced

Juice of one lime

1 tbs sugar

1/2 tsp salt

 Blend ginger and chillis, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend until relatively smooth

Kylie Kwong’s Soy Sauce Duck Recipe – contains her recipe for masterstock.