Once, when I was staying in Hangzhou, I went with my restaurateur friend A Dai to a nearby village where a pig was to be slaughtered. We watched three brothers, professional pig-killers, dispatch the animal with a long ‘willow leaf’ knife, stayed for a chat with the farmer over tea and bowlfuls of poached eggs served with sugar, then drove back to town with the meat in the back of the van. That evening, back at A Dai’s restaurant, the head chef whipped up two simple stir-fries with the pig’s liver and heart and they were both spectacularly delicious.

Here, I’ve adapted one of his recipes using chicken livers. It takes a few minutes to prepare and cook and would make a good supper for two, with rice and perhaps another vegetable dish. The fast stir-frying method is perfect for chicken livers, which become leathery when overcooked. In Hangzhou, the locals tend not to eat spicy food, but a little ground chilli makes a fine addition to this dish.


  • 150 g very fresh chicken livers, (and hearts if you have them)
  • 100 g chinese chives
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground chillies, or to taste (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • salt
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ½ tablespoon shaoxing wine


1. Cut the chicken livers (and hearts, if using) evenly into slices 1/2 –1 cm thick, and put them in a bowl. Add the marinade ingredients and mix well. Trim the chives and cut into 5 cm lengths.
2. Add the oil to a seasoned wok over a high flame, swirl it around, then tip in the chicken livers (and hearts, if using) and stir-fry to separate the slices. When they have separated and are semi-cooked, remove them from the wok.
3. Return the wok to the heat and add the chives and chillies, if using. When they are hot and fragrant, return the livers (and hearts, if using) to the wok, with the soy sauce and salt, if you need it, and continue to stir-fry until the livers are barely cooked and still pinkish inside and everything smells delicious. Serve immediately.


Equivalences: 150g = 5.3 oz; 100g = 3.5 oz; 1/2–1 cm = .2–.4 in, 5 cm = 2 in.




Fuchsia Dunlop


2 servings




Asian : East Asian : Hunan