Christmas roast: A new-and-improved roast chicken recipe from the founder of Dave's Deli

The original roast chicken that Chin made over 30 years ago put his eatery Dave's Deli on the map, as there were often lines up people waiting to eat it. — SAMUEL ONG/The Star

Over 30 years ago, David Chin opened his famed eatery Dave’s Deli. Initially the eatery specialised in sandwiches, but then Chin had the idea of serving roast chicken on the menu.

“I had absolutely no idea how to do it. So this story has been repeated many, many times but the first roast chicken I ever made I sold!

“How did I do it? There was no Google and I had °no chef training at that time, so I referred to recipe books and somehow or rather, maybe I managed to get the right combination.

“What happened after that was that people were lining up for the roast chicken. So it started 31 years ago, and as we progressed, the roast chicken became a hallmark of the deli. Then I retired seven years ago,” explains the exuberant Chin.

Last year, Chin returned to active F&B duty with the advent of his eponymous restaurant Café-Bistrot David in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, which has since become a popular hotspot for its hearty pies, burgers and other decadent meals.

This year, Chin will be serving his signature roast chicken(individual portions; not the entire chicken) at his new eatery (alongside roast beef and roast lamb) for the festive season.

But the 30-years-later version of Chin’s roast chicken is an entirely different chook from his initial creation and has built on the decades’ worth of culinary know-how and pedagogy he has picked up over the years.

Chin’s current roast chicken recipes includes all the techniques he has picked up over the years. — SAMUEL ONG/The StarChin’s current roast chicken recipes includes all the techniques he has picked up over the years. — SAMUEL ONG/The Star

“Of course during this period of time, you learn – you go to the school of hard knocks and after awhile, you take a more chef approach to things. So with a bit of theory and learning, the current roast chicken has got a lot of technique to it. It’s not like those early days where you just roasted it and it was done,” he says.

Chin’s roast chicken recipe now involves brining the chicken, marinating it with compound butter and enhancing the flavours with a festive stuffing and vegetable-infused gravy.

“So the first thing is the brining. You have to brine it for 24 hours. Why do we brine the chicken?

“We brine it so that the meat is flavoured with the salt and also so it tenderises the meat – this really makes a lot of difference,” he says.

Chin also says that adding the compound butter as a marinade means that the chicken imbibes some of the flavours of the butter, adding new nuances to the meal.

“In normal circumstances, what people do is they will stuff unsalted butter into the chicken, but I have brought it to another level by using compound butter. Compound butter is basically a mix of things that you put in the butter to enhance its taste.

“So we put a bit of an Asian spin to with it soy sauce, sesame oil and ginger. We infuse all these ingredients into the butter and this then becomes the marinade for the chicken,” he says.

The proof is in the tasting and Chin’s roast chicken lives up to all the hard work that goes into it. The beautiful bronzed, golden-brown skin is packed with flavour and this yields to meat that is seductively pliant and tenderly yielding on the palate.

The overall meal is understated yet yields complex flavour profiles. This is – all said and done – a very, very good roast chicken.

Ultimately for Chin, the roast chicken is emblematic of the repast that his own family will tuck into come Christmas day.

“Christmas reminds us of family and everyone sitting around the table and what better way to have communal eating than a centrepiece of roast?” he says.


For brining the chicken to 2kg chicken, dressed

3 litres water

45g salt

Place the chicken in the brining liquid for 24 hours. Take out and pat dry.

Compound butter marinade

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tsp soy sauce

chilli flakes, to taste

1 tbsp brown sugar

½ lemon, juiced

grated ginger, to taste

250g good quality unsalted butter

In a pan, warm up sesame oil and soy sauce. Sprinkle chilli flakes over this and add brown sugar and cook until sugar melts. Squeeze lemon juice and leave mixture to cool.

In a bowl, cream butter and add the cooked sesame oil mixture. Add ginger and mix to combine.


50g unsalted butter

1 large onion, diced

1 chicken stock cube, mixed with 1 cup of water

1 punnet mushroom, diced

50g chestnuts, roughly chopped

10g dried cranberries, chopped

10g raisins

5 sage leaves, diced

salt and pepper to taste

bread cubes from 1 baguette

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Sauté onion until translucent. Add chicken stock mix and mushrooms. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.

Add chestnuts, cranberries, raisins, sage and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat.

Place bread cubes over baking tray. Rub in butter. Bake in oven at 175°C for 10 minutes.

Mix stuffing ingredients together.

For roasting the chicken

2 onions, quartered

1 garlic bulb, halved

2 carrots, cut into large cubes

2 celery stems, cut 5cm each

1 lemon, sliced thick

a few sprigs rosemary

a few sprigs thyme

a few sprigs parsley

olive oil to drizzle

150ml white wine (optional, but adds flavour to the meat and jus)

Place stuffing and 2 lemon slices into cavity of chicken.

Rub compound butter in between skin and flesh (set aside some for basting).

Truss chicken by tying legs with string to ensure the stuffing is intact and to further ensure proper shape whilst roasting.

Prepare roasting tray with the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, lemon and herbs. Crumple 2 sheets of aluminium foil and place in the centre of the tray.

Sit chicken on the aluminum foil, breast side up. Drizzle some olive oil and pour white wine over. Place tray with chicken in pre-heated oven at 185°C and roast for 30 minutes.

Turn chicken over and roast for a further 15 minutes. Turn chicken again to breast side and turn oven up to 210°C. Roast for a further 10 minutes. Baste with remaining butter. Check for internal temperature of deepest cut to reach at least 75°C.

Remove from the oven. Place chicken on a rack cover with tin foil to rest.


2 cups water

1 chicken stock cube

butter, as required flour, as required

After chicken is roasted, remove carrots from roasting tray. Add water and chicken stock cube into roasting tray. Place over stove and simmer, stirring the remaining ingredients for about 15 minutes.

Sieve through a cone-shaped strainer. Thicken the jus with some beurre manie (equal parts of soft butter and flour kneaded into a dough) cooked over low heat until it reaches pouring consistency.

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