Place the cut up chicken pieces in a bag or container to marinate with the garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, vinegar, soy sauce, 1/2 cup hot water and optional salt. 1 tsp sugar or 1/2 tsp honey can be added optionally. It will help cut the bitterness from the soy sauce.Marinate at least 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
Place the chicken and marinade in a non reactive pot (stainless steel, glass, or acryllic).Add water to almost cover the meat.
Turn on heat to high and bring to a boil.Turn down heat to a simmer.Skim off any scum that rises to the top.
Simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes.Chicken should be tender but not falling apart.
Heat 1/4 inch of oil a frying pan until it is hot.Use a tong and take out chicken pieces and pat on a paper towel to dry off marinade. Saute chicken pieces in hot oil until browned. It will only take a few minutes on each side. Remove the browned pieces and set aside in serving bowl.
Reduce remaining marinade untilit is thickened.For a thicker sauce combine 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch with 1/4 cup water. Stir to dissolve, and add to sauce.Continue to cook until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.Spoon sauce over chicken pieces. Serve hot with rice.