I first encountered Sichuan Spicy Chicken, or Chongqing La Zi Ji, at a Sichuan restaurant in China. At the restaurant, almost every table had a serving of a chicken dish buried under a mountain heap of dried red chilies. I tried the dish and was instantly hooked on the aromatic, fiery, numbing, and deeply flavorful chicken. It was delicious! According to my local friend, Sichuan Spicy Chicken was invented some 14 years ago in a small restaurant outside of Chongqing, the capital of Sichuan, in the town of Ge Le Shan and has since become a popular dish. My friend Chef Wang taught me this recipe and I have toned it down significantly to suit your palate.
Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal
- 10 oz (330 g) skinless, boneless chicken meat (breasts, thighs, or legs), cut into bite- sized cubes
- 1/2 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or sherry
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt oil, for deep-frying
- 1 tablespoon store-bought chili oil or homemade Chili oil
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorn oil
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 20 dried red finger-length chilies, deseeded and cut into 2 in (5 cm) lengths
- 1/2 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- Salt to taste
- 3 green onions (scallions), white parts only, trimmed and cut into small rounds
- Marinate the chicken with the Chinese rice wine, cornstarch, and salt, about 15 minutes.
- Heat 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) of the oil in a wok or stockpot to 350°F (175°C) for deep-frying. Gently drop the chicken into the oil and loosen them up immediately with the spatula to prevent the chicken from clumping together.
- Deep-fry the chicken to a light golden brown. Dish out with a strainer or slotted spoon, draining the excess oil by laying the chicken on a dish lined with paper towels. Discard or reserve the oil for use in other recipe.
- To stir-fry, heat the chili oil and Sichuan Peppercorn Oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the garlic, stir quickly with the spatula before adding the dried red chilies. Stir-fry until you smell the spicy aroma of the dried chilies.
- Return the chicken to the wok or skillet and add the chicken bouillon powder, sugar, salt, and green onions. Stir quickly with the spatula to combine all the ingredients in the wok or skillet. Dish out and serve immediately with steamed rice.
COOK’S NOTE: Sichuan Spicy Chicken is supposed to be laden with lots of dried red chilies and explosively spicy. Reduce (or increase) the amount of chilies used to fit your tolerance for heat.
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