• Michelle Tchea's go-to winter soup is a Taiwanese drunken ginger and sesame oil chicken soup. (Getty Images )Source: Getty Images
This boozy ginger and sesame oil chicken soup is all you need to keep warm through winter.
Michelle Tchea

9 Aug 2021 - 11:26 AM  UPDATED 9 Aug 2021 - 12:19 PM

When the weather takes a plunge, I want soup.

Tomato egg drop, lotus root and even the overly sweet corn soup are all soups with which I'm familiar. However, there's a Taiwanese one that I particularly enjoy: drunken ginger and sesame oil chicken soup.

This broth is a true winter warmer. It's filled with ingredients like ginger, sesame oil, chicken and goji berries, which are known in traditional Chinese medicine to promote heat in the body.

Indeed, the dish has a unique ingredient combo, but it's ultimately brought to life by booze.

The alcohol in question is rice wine, which is used in many Taiwanese recipes. Cheap and affordable, the rice wine gives the soup "oomph".  

"The dish has a unique ingredient combo, but is ultimately brought to life by one in particular: booze."

Although many traditional recipes for this soup use rice wine, my favourite rendition includes a sweet wine like marsala or port — perhaps something my mum thought to incorporate when she found herself in Australia in the early 80s with very little access to good rice wine.

Mum tells me that like many of the dishes she tweaked after moving to Australia, her discovery of tawny port as a cheap, palatable, and local Aussie product were all good reasons to use it in an iconic Taiwanese dish.

So, while top-quality rice wine from Taiwan is preferred, when you have something like great Aussie fortified wine for under $10, it's hard not to fall in love with this sweetened version.

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Some may think this soup is too sweet, but I love the way the port gives the soup a rather decadent touch, which complements the heat of the ginger and sesame oil, not to mention the bouncy and almost chewy texture of the chicken — if you use an organic or corn-fed one.

A real drunken ginger sesame oil chicken soup in Taiwan would be made entirely with rice wine and loads of ginger, but I'm taming this recipe down with water to take away some of that punch and heat. That said, feel free to go all in. It's best enjoyed with rice or thin noodles. 

Drunken ginger and sesame oil chicken soup (麻油雞)

Serves 2


  • 5 pcs organic chicken, a mix of thighs or drumsticks
  • 4-6 tbsps top quality black sesame oil
  • 1 knob ginger, sliced
  • 2 cups port wine or rice wine
  • 4-5 cups water
  • 5 goji berries, optional
  • Salt, to taste


  1. Clean and wash the chicken pieces, pat dry with a clean towel and set aside.
  2. Using a medium or large-sized pot, lightly fry the ginger pieces in 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil over a low flame. A high heat will make the sesame oil bitter. Push the ginger to the side of the pot and turn up the heat to fry the chicken pieces. Fry for a few minutes until brown and slightly crispy to build the stock and flavour.
  3. Carefully pour in the wine and enough water to cover the chicken, scraping any charred bits at the bottom. Sprinkle a little salt, about 1 teaspoon.
  4. Add in the goji berries if using and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer for 20 minutes, until the chicken is tender. I like to cook my chicken so that it falls off the bone so I usually cook it for 30 minutes and let it sit with the lid closed to develop the flavours. Season with salt to taste if necessary.
  5. When ready to serve, add the remaining sesame oil and bring it back to a gentle simmer to release the flavours without losing the sweetness of all the ingredients and alcohol.
  6. Serve with rice or noodles.

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