Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Semi-Homemade Dry Chili Chicken

Long time no see. We've been on hiatus during the past few months because of new jobs and new apartments (still in NYC--now in Brooklyn), but we're back. In even better news, we're going to be posting every Tuesday and Friday from now until... the next big change in our lives that leaves us without a dining table.

Today's recipe is for dry chili chicken, a.k.a. Chongqing chicken, a famous Szechuan dish that is basically deep-fried popcorn chicken in a metric ton of chilies, salt, and Szechuan peppercorns, a uniquely simple combination that draws its flavor from the aromatics caramelizing into a dry paste around each little nugget of meat.

Dry chili chicken is not on the menu in most Chinese restaurants. We've had to seek out places specializing in Szechuan cuisine to get it, even in big cities like Boston and NYC, so your best bet is to make it at home. While traditional recipes call for a wok full of frying oil, we just make it semi-homemade and use the frozen chicken pieces from Trader Joe's popular Mandarin Orange Chicken. 

Pro tip: get a backup bag.

Semi-Homemade Dry Chili Chicken

Cooking Time
20 minutes


2 Chongqing tablescapers

Chef's knife and cutting board
Sheet pan
Large, heavy-bottomed skillet

1 package Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange Chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon cracked Szechuan peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons canola oil
Kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons chili oil
Thinly sliced scallion greens, for garnish (optional)

1. Open bag of chicken. Throw out sauce packets. Cook chicken according to package directions. Make sure to get it crispay.

2. Sauté garlic, chili flakes, Szechuan peppercorns, black pepper, canola oil, and a big pinch of salt in a large skillet over medium heat until very aromatic but not burned, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chili oil.

3. Stir together chicken and seasoning mixture. Add more salt to taste. Serve over white rice, garnished with scallions if you're looking to impress.

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