Hand-Pulled Chicken with Cucumber | Hong Kong Food Blog with Recipes, Cooking Tips mostly of Chinese and Asian styles | Taste Hong Kong

Hand-Pulled Chicken with Cucumber

Hand-Pulled Chicken

This hand-pulled chicken (in Chinese 手撕雞) is again a cold dish following the last one. Excuse me, it has been constantly over 30 degree C here.

The Chinese way of getting a chicken (or part of it) cooked for this dish is mostly done by boiling, poaching or steaming. I use only chicken drumsticks and choose to steam them together with julienned spring onion and ginger for more flavors. And, with a simple coating over the chicken drumsticks before steaming, I am happy that the meat is juicy and tender after cooked.

Believe me, I did not do such for many other dishes; but I do this directly with my hands this time, tearing down pieces of meat from the chicken drumsticks. My fingers apparently do a better job than with the help of forks. But I would not object any fork-pulled chicken so long as the meat is loosened into fluffier pieces than those cut by knives. To me, this is most or less like a simplified version of White Cut Chicken (白切雞).

Hand-Pulled Chicken

  • Ingredients
  • 2 chicken drumsticks, ~260g
  • 3-4 springs spring onion, cut into slivers
  • 2 tbsp ginger slivers
  • 1 small cucumber, ~180g
  • 1 tsp coarse sea salt (for marinading cucumber)
  • Marinades for chicken
  • juice from 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp cooking wine
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • Coating chicken
  • 1/2 tsp corn starch
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Cooling chicken
  • 1-2 cups ice water
  • 1 cup ice
  • Sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp chili sauce, or to taste
  • soy sauce to taste, optional

Grating Ginger
Chicken Drumsticks
Steam Chicken in Wok
Steam Chicken in Wok


Prepare chicken drumsticks
Rinse, lay them in a dish and place the dish in basin. Pour about 2 cups of boiling water over them. I do this to get rid of as much as the frozen smell. Pat dry chicken drumsticks and pierce them liberally with a fork; rub them evenly with marinades and let them stand for about half an hour.

Prepare cucumber
Rinse, cut off both ends, about 2 cm thick. Rub one end against the stem in circular motions for about half a minute, when some white foams appear on the cut edges. Doing so is to reduce the bitterness from the cucumber. Repeat doing the same for the other end. Rinse off foams and cut the cucumber into slices then into thin strips, about 1/4 cm thick. Massage the cucumber strips with the sea salt, marinade them for 5 minutes, then rinse off salt by clean water. Pat day, and arrange the cucumber on dish.

Steam chicken
After the chicken drumsticks are marinaded, coat them with corn starch, followed by oil before steaming. Lay chicken drumsticks flat in a dish which is good for steaming; cover them with julienned ginger and spring onion. Set a rack in wok with 2 to 3 cups of water, cover lid, and bring water to a boil. Uncover, place the dish of chicken drumsticks on the rack, cover, and steam for 15 minutes over medium-high heat. I set my timer and then distance myself from the source of heat.

To have the chicken just cooked through is the most tricky part of making this dish as it is a function of both timing and heat. Even steaming time is identical, the outcome may not be the same as heat-retention ability of different woks and power of flame may vary. When taking my timing as a reference, do also take note on the possible differences between our cooking appliances and sizes of the meat.

Test doness
Uncover, test doness with a chopstick. If it pass through easily, the chicken is done – another cooking skill we Chinese employ, though it is less scientific than using a therometer. Then, immediately transfer only the chicken drumsticks to a bowl containing ice water and ice; drown the meat completely in it, about 3 minutes. Strain water and pat day. This step shall help seal the meaty juice while stopping any residual heat that might overcook the chicken.

To serve
Pull meat into long pieces from chicken drumsticks. Arrange them on cucumber, cover and chill them in fridge for about 3 to 4 hours or until cold. Dress them with sesame oil and chili sauce right before serving.

Often than not, Chinese hand-pulled chicken is always served with sesame paste. But sometimes I opt for exceptions. Enjoy yours!

To get immediate updates and new recipes from my blog, you may also SUBSCRIBE them via RSS feeds. See you there.


Thank you for visiting, I would love to hear from you as much as I love to put up posts here ...
  1. dave

    Looks fantastic with a great presentation! I love pulled chicken, especially done after steaming. Will have to try this soon, thanks!

  2. the lacquer spoon

    Under the hot and humid weather, we definitely need this recipe with a light texture and spicy kick instead of white sesame based sauce! Thank you for sharing always 🙂

  3. Pepy @Indonesia Eats

    The pic looks so good!

  4. Christine@Christine's Recipes

    I also love steaming chicken than poaching in water because the chicken is smoother and more delicious.
    The presentation of your 手撕雞 is wonderfully tempting. I really want to try some even though the weather is quite cold here.

  5. pigpigscorner

    Coating with corn starch and oil before steaming? Interesting, I have to try this next time.

  6. Patty

    Your photos are incredibly enticing! I love chicken dishes, particularly ones that feature drumsticks – my favorite part of the chicken! I have never heard of the steaming/poaching technique featured in your post, but it seems like an incredibly smart way to maintain the juiciness of chicken, which very easily can become dry. Will have to try this recipe soon!

  7. food-4tots

    This dish looks so simply but in actual fact there are many tips and tricks that only a skillful chef like you can do it. I’m so impressed seeing your evenly hand shredded chicken. Great food styling too! Don’t think I have the patience to present the chicken like the way you did under weather above 30 degree C. 😉

  8. penny aka jeroxie

    Nice and clean tasting recipe! This will make a great summer dish.

  9. Angie's Recipes

    I love “hand-pulled chicken”! Used to have them with some oyster sauce…chilli sauce sounds great too.

  10. sophia

    Oh this sounds delightful! I’ve always wondered why Chinese-style chicken is so tender and juicy even though it just looks like it’s been steamed. Sesame paste sounds good as a condiment, too!

  11. Mary Moh

    This sounds simple and easy. I like it. I have to try. I would love it with garlic & lime as dip….mmmm….delicious.

  12. TasteHongKong

    @Angie’s Recipes,
    @Mary Moh,

    Talking about the sauce, sometimes I even cheat by using slightly diluted peanut butter : ).

  13. tigerfish

    I have never heard of hand-pulled chicken but I will be glad to try it. The dish looks simple but I believe techniques and experiences (e.g to get the perfect moist juicy chicken) are required to make it perfect. And yours looks brilliantly perfect 🙂

  14. LC

    Hi Can you please tell me where you got your ginger grater from? Thank you.

  15. TasteHongKong

    @LC, If my memory serves me correctly, the grater was bought from Sogo, a Japanese department store in H.K., years ago. Now, I still see the logo ‘Merryaunty’ on its handle.

  16. Heavenly Housewife

    What a fresh summery meal, and it is so beautifully presented.
    *kisses* HH

  17. Gigi

    Thank you for posting this wonderful looking recipe. Can you tell me what the cornstarch is for when you steam it? Just curious.

  18. Lori

    This looks beautiful, so light and a great dish to cool you off in that heat! I love the combination of flavors here, especially that sauce.

  19. TasteHongKong

    @Gigi, In Chinese cooking, corn starch is often added to meats to help keep them moist particularly before stir-frying. I borrow the concept for steaming as well. Just let me know if I shall clarify more.

  20. Kitchen Butterfly

    I love the look of the photos – clean and vibrant, and this pulled chicken sounds superb!

  21. Von

    This looks really yummy! I love the texture of hand pulled chicken =] I like using my hands directly when cooking- it’s so much more fun!

  22. PlumLeaf

    My older bro’ loves to order “Hand-Pulled Chicken” when in restaurants but in all honestly, I think it’s more like shredded chicken as it seems cut with a cleaver.
    Thanks to you, I will be able to try out this recipe for him – although he’s not a fan of chilli so I’ll have to come up with an alternative sauce. I fancy eating this with some shredded jellyfish in it for texture too!

  23. Cookie

    I just tried this recipe and loved it! Thanks for sharing! http://cookieloveseating.blogspot.com/2010/08/cool-steamed-chicken-cucumber-salad.html

  24. TasteHongKong

    @Cookie, Thank you for sharing yours with a video. So happy to learn that you like this dish. I like your sauce with both ginger and green onion.

  25. MeatHub Inc.

    This looks absolutely amazing! Very simple. Very tasty!

  26. Cool Steamed Chicken & Cucumber Salad | Cookie Loves…

    […] has been a steadily scorching hot & humid summer in Dallas, so when I happened upon this recipe the other day, it called out to me like a promising oasis in the middle of the desert (one s!).  […]

  27. Cool Steamed Chicken & Cucumber Salad - Cookie Loves…

    […] has been a steadily scorching hot & humid summer in Dallas, so when I happened upon this recipe the other day, it called out to me like a promising oasis in the middle of the desert (one s!).  […]

  28. Tiffany

    What kind of chili sauce do you use?

  29. TasteHongKong

    It is Chinese chili bean sauce, like one used in this Hot and Sour Soup.
    You may also consider using sesame dressing.