Many years ago, I worked in an eyeglass shop with a Chinese girl named Nancy. We were in the breakroom when she began heating up her lunch in the microwave. The room filled with the most wonderful aroma I had ever smelled. When I asked her what it was, she said, "Just some leftover chicken my mom made last night". She gave me some. When I took the first bite, it was like that scene in "Ratatouille" when the food critic tasted Remy's dish for the first time.
I felt like that flavor represented my entire warm, cozy childhood. I asked her for the recipe. She said she'd ask her mom. A few days later, she told me to bring the chicken to a boil in water and soy sauce for 10 minutes, then, remove the pot from heat and allow it to sit and cool for 1 hour. Then sautee some mushrooms in oil and pour them over the cut up chicken. She handed me some whole spices tied up in cheesecloth with a string. She said, "Put this into the water as well". Since that time, I have not been able to find out what these spices were. Soon after that, Nancy quit and took a different job. I do not think it was 5 spice. Because I couldn't smell cinnamon, and I haven't been able to recreate the flavor with 5 spice. I know there were peppercorns, but that's all I remember. Anyone have any ideas? I'm desperate to find out what those spices were.