Steamed Whole Chicken with Goji Berries

by Jackie Miao

Lately, I’ve been getting a little fed-up with the same ol’ rotisserie chicken from the store. I was craving a healthier, juicier and less “heaty” way of enjoying bone-in chicken. The kind of steamed chicken that my mom made twice a month when she was alive.

White-cut steamed chicken is a popular home-style dish in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. There are several versions of this Southern-Chinese style preparation. Some styles have soy sauce, ginseng root, shitake mushrooms, red dates, and/or Shaoxing wine added. For this recipe, I have kept it very simple so that it is baby-friendly for Sam, gluten-free, and paleo for my Crossfit friends. The goji berries are very nutritious and oh-so delicious!


To steam a whole chicken, you’ll need either one of these:-

WOK – You will need a large wok with a lid, and a steaming rack for a whole chicken. If you don’t have anything that can take a whole chicken, you can still make this dish with chicken parts in a covered pot with a steaming rack. Or, a

THREE-TIER STEAMING POT – I don’t expect non-Chinese households to own one of these (they take up a lot of cabinet space). However, if you own one of these already, you’ll already know what to do. Just follow the recipe and steam the chicken for 45 minutes. Or an,

INSTANT POT – Technically, this could work, though you’ll need to make sure the chicken fits inside a 6-quart IP. I would recommend using an 8-quart IP for this project. You’ll have to buy the matching glass lid from Amazon to make this work (we aren’t pressure cooking the chicken). If you don’t already have an 8-quart IP, don’t buy it just to make this dish. Get the wok with a lid instead, because you’ll get much more use out of a wok rather an an 8-quart Instant Pot.

The Dining Happy Way

This is a super easy recipe. The key to getting a good chicken dish is to rub the skin with sliced ginger to get rid of the xing wei (腥味), or bad odor of the chicken. To achieve good flavor, brining the chicken (wet or dry) for about 15-30 minutes makes the chicken more tender, flavorful and juicy. If you’re doing low sodium, reduce the brining time or skip it altogether. The great thing about steaming a bone-in, whole chicken is that the skin does a good job in retaining the moisture of the bird.

The reason I am not using aluminum foil (the classic method)

I also want to make a note that, traditionally, people like to cook this wrapped in aluminum foil to contain the concentrated juices without having the steam condensation diluting the stock.

I weighed the risk of ingesting unnecessary leached heavy metals from food preparations, against the benefits of the concentrated stock, and have consciously chosen to go the clean route. Steaming salted meat on high heat over 45 minutes inside a metal envelope with a plastic film just seems like a bad idea.

This is why I steam it on a lead-free, stoneware dish.

Give it a try, and let me know how you like it in the comments below!


Steamed Whole Chicken with Goji Berries

A variation of Cantonese-style steamed white-cut chicken.
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Malaysian, Chinese
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6 people
Author: Jackie Miao
Cost: $12-$15


  • 1 whole chicken organic
  • 2 tbsp goji berries organic
  • 2 tbsp salt to clean the bird
  • 2 stalks green onions shredded
  • 2 slices ginger cut at a 45 degree angle
  • 2-4 cups water for steaming (don't be afraid to use more water than this)


  • Rinse the goji berries in a small bowl, and set aside.
  • Clean the whole chicken thoroughly with by rubbing its skin vigorously with 2 tablespoon of salt. Make sure you rub off all the residual feathers, dirt and yellow film off the chicken. Remember to also salt the cavity of the chicken for flavor. Let it sit for a few minutes (dry-brining). Then rinse the chicken under cold water to wash off the excess salt and chicken grime.
  • After rinsing the chicken, rub it with a sliced ginger to get rid of the smelliness or xing wei (腥味) of the chicken. Be sure to get all the surface area of the chicken skin.
  • Put the chicken in a large, steam-proof glass or ceramic bowl that will fit inside your wok.
  • Top the chicken with the rinsed goji berries, spreading them evenly on the whole bird. Then put one sliced ginger inside the cavity of the chicken, and another slice on the side of the chicken in the dish.
  • Place the wok on top of the stove and the steaming rack onto the base of the wok. Then add water up to the level of the steaming rack (about 2-4 cups of water depending on the height of your steaming rack).
    Turn your stove on high heat, close the lid, and bring the water to a boil until you see steam coming out from the sides. (For the three-tier steaming pot, add water to the base layer, and place the chicken on the deepest tiered pot.)
  • Place the bowl containing the whole chicken on top of the rack, and close the wok lid or steamer lid.
  • Steam the chicken on high for 45 minutes, adding more water in intervals of 10-15 minutes to the level of the steaming rack.
  • After 45 minutes, remove the chicken from the stove and rest the bird for 20 minutes before cutting it. Keep all the natural steaming juices on the bowl. If there's too much liquidy stock, transfer some of it into another smaller bowl for use later.
  • When the chicken isn't hot to the touch anymore, cut it into bite-sized pieces (1" x 3" x 1") and rearrange it back onto the steaming bowl.
  • Shred and slice 2 stalks of raw green onions and sprinkle them liberally onto the chicken to serve.
  • Serve with hot rice.

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