Sometimes food in China is named for what it looks like, sometimes for what the dude selling it looks like, and sometimes it carries several fun names. In the case of “Strange-Flavored” Chicken, it’s obviously named for an eating experience that can’t be easily explained, but also for the sound made when a cooked chicken is being pounded with a big baton, busting the meat into serving portions. (Wow, that was a mouthful.) Bang! Bang! Where those days are largely gone and this delectable chicken dish has mostly gone to citywide, less noisy shops, the name still conjures up mouthwatering anticipation for anyone waiting in the inevitable line.
“Strange-flavored” bears some need for explanation, no? Traditionally, the five flavors in Chinese cookery are salty, sour, sweet, spicy, and bitter. When a dish comes along that embodies all five, it’s difficult to nail the overall sensation other than to call it guai, or “strange.” The first time we tried bang bang chicken was in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, seventeen years back. Friends had already introduced us to Sichuan’s penchant for strong flavors. Thanks a ton, Dave Fan! But, one bite of this dish sent our tongues and minds reeling. It was as if our palates had suddenly graduated from Chengdu elementary school and gone straight to Sichuan University.
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Serves: 6–8
- ¾ cup sesame paste or creamy peanut butter
- 1 cup soy sauce
- ⅓ cup Chinese black vinegar
- ⅓ cup toasted sesame oil
⅓ cup sugar
- 2 tsp Sichuan peppercorn, ground
- 6 chicken pieces, boneless, cooked, diced or shredded, or roasted chicken from Kaoji (Roasted Chicken)
- ⅓ cup red chile oil with sediment or Lajiao You (Chile Oil)
- 2 Tbsp white sesame seeds
- In a mixing bowl, thoroughly whisk together sesame paste, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, and peppercorns. Be sure that the sugar dissolves completely.
- To serve the bang bang ji like they do on the streets of Chengdu, pour the sesame mixture into individual bowls, followed by some pieces of chicken and some lajiao, and finally sprinkle on some sesame seeds. Suggest that guests mix everything together before enjoying this rather piquant snack or appetizer.
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