Roasted pigeon with five spice salt

  • 2
  • 1 hour 30 minutes plus 3-4 hours for the pigeons to air-dry

This ambitious five-spice pigeon dish from John Javier is a four-step process: the birds are brined, poached in a sweet and savoury marinade, air-dried and then finally deep-fried so the skin is perfectly crispy.

First published in 2023

Ingredients

Metric

Imperial

  • 100g of table salt
  • 20g of five-spice powder, five-spice powder
  • 20g of MSG (monosodium glutamate) powder
  • 20g of sugar
  • 2 pigeons, 500g each, head and feet attached
  • 225g of light soy sauce
  • 600g of Shaoxing wine
  • 425g of rice vinegar
  • 60g of red yeast rice, blended into a powder
  • 150g of maltose
  • 75g of garlic powder
  • 600g of water
  • vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Equipment

  • Meat hook

Method

1

Lightly toast table salt in a dry pan for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the five spice power. Mix thoroughly. Once cool, add the MSG and sugar and mix again. Set aside

2

Pluck all the hair from the pigeons using fish tweezers. Using a small knife, make an incision just under the abdomen of each pigeon and pull out any organs inside. Rinse each cavity under cold water to remove as much blood as possible. Dry pigeons with some paper towel

  • 2 pigeons, 500g each, head and feet attached
3

Rub the inside of the cavities with some of the five spice salt and then set them aside at room temperature for 45 minutes

4

Meanwhile, combine light soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, rice vinegar, red yeast rice powder, maltose, garlic powder and water in a large pot. Simmer on medium heat for 15 minutes

  • 225g of light soy sauce
  • 600g of Shaoxing wine
  • 425g of rice vinegar
  • 60g of red yeast rice, blended into a powder
  • 150g of maltose
  • 75g of garlic powder
  • 600g of water
5

Once the pigeons have rested bring the marinade to the boil on high heat and add the pigeons. Remove the pots from the heat and allow the pigeons to continue cooking in the hot liquid for 15 minutes. The residual heat will cook the pigeons to a perfect medium-rare. Turn the pigeons over half way through this process so the cook evenly

6

Using a butcher’s hook, hang the pigeons over a tray, somewhere in the kitchen with good ventilation. You can position a small fan to face the pigeons on low speed to help dry out the skin. It usually takes 3–4 hours for the skin to dry, and once it's finished the skin should be dry to the touch

7

Preheat a large pot of oil to 180°C. Alternatively, if you have access to a deep fryer, you can use this instead. Deep-fry the pigeons for 1 minute 45 seconds. Let the birds rest for 2 minutes, then carve and serve with five spice salt on the side.

  • vegetable oil, for deep-frying
First published in 2023

John Javier became known as one of the most exciting new voices in Chinese cooking while at the helm of Master in Sydney and Happy Paradise in Hong Kong. He now heads up Fitzrovia’s The Tent (At the End of the Universe) and its Middle Eastern menu.

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