The Chinese Marinade To Win Your Mother-In-Law’s Heart

That Perfect Chicken Roast

I feel silly giving this post this title but this was how my friend, Anne from Chic-pixel, sold me on this recipe.

I can’t remember exactly how and where we were discussing this but what I do remember was that I heard her talking about roasting chicken that weekend and when I was giving her praises on how amazing she was in making chicken roast, she told me how her recipe was not difficult at all. It was in fact easy-peasy and was good enough for her husband to enjoy (and request perpetually) and one that has even passed her mother-in-law’s tastes. Caveat: Anne’s family-in-law are Chinese Malaysians so when she told me about this I was all ears. Not that other roast chicken recipes don’t matter but I trust the flavor profile of Malaysians. This roast chicken recipe must be bloody good.  And it truly is. 

That Perfect Chicken Roast

Another caveat: this was actually not Anne’s recipe but a recipe she found online and has placed in her repertoire and has now become a part of mine. This recipe has not failed me and has in fact been the most useful recipe I’ve learned in the last year. If anything, this recipe only gets better with every tweak granted that the base is covered. By that I mean I you have the right amount of meat for the marinade. 

Anyway, enough prattling. On to the killer marinade! 

The Chinese Roast Chicken To Win Your Mother-In-Law's Heart
Serves 4
This awesome Chinese roast chicken recipe will never bring dishonor to your ancestors, your cows, and your family table.
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  1. 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  2. 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  3. 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  4. 1 tbsp sesame oil
  5. 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice
  6. 1 tbsp Chinese Rice Wine (Shaoxing Wine) or cooking sake (but the flavor is milder)
  7. 2 garlic cloves
  8. 1 tbsp grated ginger
  9. freshly ground pepper
  10. pinch of salt (for luck!)
FOR THE CHICKEN (or any protein really)
  1. 1.5 kilos of chicken/pork
  1. Put everything in a bowl and forget about it until you need to use it for the roast.
  1. 1. Bathe and massage the chicken in the marinade for some time and then cover it cling film and put it in the fridge. If you can find a tub/pot where you can submerge the chicken in the marinade, it'll be better. I use a large tub of ice cream for this.
  2. 2. Soak the chicken overnight. If you're impatient, 3 hours. The marinade won't fully submerge the chicken so turn it over once in a while. In fact, once is all right. If you want to put a little more love in it, once every one or two hours would be great.
  3. 3. When you're ready to roast, put the chicken out of the fridge for an hour or two until it's room temperature. I usually do this as soon as I wake up. I place it in a cool/sterile part of the kitchen and far from other food stuffs because raw chicken.
  4. 4. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  5. 5. While the oven's heating up, I drain the chicken from the marinade and put it on a wire-rack. Set-aside the marinade. The wire rack is on top of a shallow roasting pan filled with 1/4 water. This, I realise, is a crucial step because it prevents the juices from the chicken from burning but at the same time, it also helps in not making the roast chicken dry
  6. 6. Roast in 180°C for 45 minutes and then bring it down to 150°C for 15. In between the roast, baste your chicken with the leftover marinade. You can also baste with sesame oil towards the last few minutes of your roast to get that nice crisp skin.
  7. 7. Your total roast time is around 1 hour. Afterwards, rest the chicken for 15 minutes while covered in foil.
  8. 8. Serve it to people you want to enslave for life.
  1. 1. Combine the leftover marinade after basting with the roast's juices in the pan and simmer for 10 minutes or until the sauce is thicker and less runny. This makes a good 'gravy' for the chicken.
  2. 2. Put it in the fridge until the oil on top hardens.
  3. 3. Separate the oil from the jellied marinade at the bottom. Yes. The marinade turns into jelly all thanks to the chicken's collagen!
  4. 4. You can use the oil for frying tofu, chicken, or even stir-fries
  5. 5. I use the jellied marinade to flavor stir-fries OR as a jelly 'furikake' on top of steaming rice. AWW YISSS.
  1. 1. Char siu / Char siew
  2. - Only use fresh marinade for this
  3. - Use the same roasting technique above for a shoulder of pork or pork belly of the same weight
  4. - OR I braise chunks of pork shoulder or belly in the marinade and keep the sauce for fun times. Like adobo but chinese styles
  5. 2. Ajitsuke tamago
  6. - Boil/steam eggs for 5 minutes and then poke the bottom with a pin and place in cold water then peel.
  7. - You can use the cool (but not jellied) leftover marinade from the chicken roast and just dunk them in while the marinade is cooling. Remember to take it out before the marinade becomes jelly.
  8. - Serve with your 'furikake' jelly marinade.
  1. - Taste the marinade first before making any other adjustments. It should have a good balance of salt and sweetness so when you're making adjustments, try not to stray from that.
  2. - If you want to make the marinade for larger chicken or pork (like 2 kilos), adjust by adding a tablespoon more oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, and rice wine and maybe make the chinese four spice to 1 teaspoon. I tend to just make small adjustments but I don't increase my soy sauce and just add a bit of salt instead.
  3. - If I want more garlic flavor, 4 cloves will do but I tend to not like this because it kills the sweet balance of the dish. Same with the ginger where I go, at most, 2 tbsp.
Adapted from Chinese Roast Chicken (Australian Women's Weekly)

The marinade is surprisingly versatile and to be honest, I didn’t expect that the marinade would come as close to many of the charsiu I’ve tasted in Japan. It is not, however, the usual roast chicken recipe/duck/pork sold in many Chinese restaurants. I’ve yet to find recipes for that but this one’s actually perfect enough for me that I can’t ask for more. At best, I’ll be experimenting with the kind of soy sauce and Chinese wine I use because I realise that even those make a total difference.

The patience required for this dish is worth it. The long marinade makes an entire difference. When I do my ‘braised’ charsiu for this, I try to marinade it before braising as well.

That Perfect Chicken Roast

Aww yiss.

For chrissakes, I can go on forever talking about this recipe because it’s so simple and surprisingly perfect and awesome. I’ve actually cooked this for a lot of people and they’re now all part of my harem. My roommate and her boyfriend are the usual customers. My not!husband has tried my first trial of this recipe and he continues to weep when he knows I’m making this roast and he’s not eating it. My friends ate the braised charsiu pork when I made abura soba in Manila and they died and placed it over everything.

It’s that awesome. I remember tasting this and crying, ‘WHERE HAS THIS MARINADE BEEN ALL MY LIFE!?!’ I’m so glad it’s finally in my life and I honestly have to thank Anne for telling about this awesome recipe. 


  • Reply
    Nina Fuentes
    May 5, 2015 at 7:55 am

    I can still remember that glorious fried rice I made with the leftover pork. Damn you.

  • Reply
    Noodle upgrade: Boiled eggs with runny yolks – PUNKEDNOODLE
    May 31, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    […] The flavouring I use for this is usually a diluted left over or a smaller version of the Chinese marinade I use to make roast chicken. You can even add it in your adobo once it’s cold!  You can also use diluted mentsuyu or […]

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