Taiwanese Fried Chicken

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Taiwanese night markets are filled with stalls and street hawkers selling their famous ‘popcorn’ chicken. Not just your average fried snack, the five-spice marinade and chilli salt sprinkle separate this fried chicken from the rest of the pack.

Prep 15 minutes, plus 1 hour marinating
Cook 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 tsp five-spice powder
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 100 g ( oz) rice flour or cornflour
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 large handful Thai or regular basil

Spicy Dipping Sauce

  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp black or rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp sambal oelek, sriracha or other chilli sauce

Method

In a shallow glass dish or zip lock bag, mix the soy, rice wine, garlic, ginger and five-spice powder. Cut any excess fat off the chicken and slice into bite-size pieces. Place in the dish or bag with the marinade and mix together. Leave for at least 1 hour or overnight, refrigerated.

Drain the chicken and discard the marinade.

Toast the Sichuan peppercorns in a small frying pan and then crush with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder. Mix with the chilli flakes and sea salt and set aside.

Mix all the spicy dipping sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Place the rice flour or cornflour in a shallow dish and dip the chicken into the flour, coating well. Shake off the excess and place the chicken on a clean plate.

Heat the oil in a wok or deep medium saucepan until it reaches 180–190°C (350–375°F) or when a small piece of bread instantly sizzles. You don’t want the oil too hot or the chicken will turn brown too quickly. Fry the chicken in batches, about eight or nine pieces at a time, until golden. Drain on paper towels. Throw the basil leaves into the oil for 30 seconds until crisp, then drain.

Place the chicken on a serving dish and scatter with the basil and a sprinkle of the Sichuan chilli salt. Serve with the spicy dipping sauce on the side.