Saturday, January 2, 2016

Szechuan fried chicken

When I go to the Wing Sing Inn in Edinburgh, I always order the spicy Szechuan chicken - little pieces of chicken, on the bone, fried with vast quantities of dried chillies and Szechuan pepper. The chillies are spicy and the Szechuan pepper provides a tingly, numbing sensation.

Tired of roast chicken, I finally decided to have a crack at making it at home. The following recipe is adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop's version of this dish. Although none of the stages is particularly difficult, it's quite involved as it requires you to dismember a chicken, chop it into small pieces (with the bone still in) then double-fry it, in batches, (You will need a cleaver to chop the chicken into small segments.) The quantity of chillies looks a bit scary, but the Chinese ones are not as spicy as their Indian cousins, and they are not meant to be eaten, just to impart flavour to the chicken pieces.


1 chicken (approx 1 to 1.5 kg)

30 ml Shaoxing wine
40g ginger, thickly sliced
1 tsp salt
2 spring onions, roughly chopped

500 ml vegetable oil (preferably groundnut or rapeseed), plus 4 tbsps
1 tbsp Szechuan chilli bean paste
20g ginger, peeled and sliced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
4 spring onion whites, sliced
100g Chinese dried chillies
25g Szechuan peppercorns
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
4 spring onion greens, sliced
2 tsp sesame oil


Part 1: chopping the chicken

  1. Mix the marinade ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Separate the wings and legs from the body of the chicken.
  3. Cut off and discard the wing tips and ends of the legs. (I use them to make stock.)
  4. Separate the wings into two pieces by cutting through the middle joint, and separate the legs into thighs and drumsticks by cutting through the middle joint. With a cleaver, chop each wing piece and each leg piece crosswise into 2 cm segments.
  5. Separate the breast from the back by cutting through the ribcage. Lay the breast section side down, cut lengthwise through the breastbone to separate it into two, then chop the breast meat crosswise into 2 cm segments.
  6. Lay the back flat, skin side down, and cut lengthwise through the ribs as close to the backbone as possible. Discard the backbone or set it aside to make stock. Chop the two meaty back sections into 2 cm segments.
  7. Place the chicken pieces in the bowl with the marinade, mix well and leave for 15 minutes.
Part 2: frying the chicken
  1. Heat the oil in a wok until it is very hot (about 190oC).  Add chicken pieces to the oil, one at a time, discarding the ginger and spring onion as you go. Don't overfill your wok - depending on the size of your wok, the size of your chicken and the size of your segments, you will probably need to fry the chicken in three batches, bringing the oil back up to its original heat before adding the next batch. Cook each batch of chicken for 3 to 4 minutes, until golden, remove from the wok and leave to drain in a wire strainer or on a wire rack.
  2. When you have fried all of the chicken once, reheat the oil, fry each batch again until crispy, remove from the wok and leave to drain in a wire strainer or on a wire rack.
  3. Transfer the used oil to a heatproof container, and brush the wok clean to remove any burnt pieces of chicken. Add 4 tbsps of fresh oil to the wok, and return to a medium heat. Add the chilli bean paste to the oil, stir and fry for 30 seconds, Add the ginger, garlic and spring onion whites, stir and fry for 1 minute. Add the dried chillies and the Szechuan peppercorns, stir and fry for another minute or so. Add the chicken pieces, Shaoxing wine, salt and sugar, and stir well to coat the chicken.
  4. Remove from heat, drizzle the sesame oil over the chicken, sprinkle with spring onion greens, and serve.

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