Anyone who has spent enough time in good Sichuan restaurants is bound to eventually try a dish listed as Chongqing chicken, Sichuan chicken with chilis, wok-fried chicken, or a number of similar names.
It is like a more sophisticated version of kung pao chicken. It's smokier, spicier (a lot spicier if you chop up the chilis), and only a bit more complex in its preparation. Few fried chicken entrees are enveloped by such a succulent tongue-tingling sauce.
Spicy Wok-Fried Chicken with Chilis (Chongqing Chicken)
1 pound chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups peanut or vegetable oil, plus 1 tablespoon for stir-frying
8 to 10 dried red chilis
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
1 small piece ginger, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1. Prepare the marinade: In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice wine, and egg whites. Coat the chicken with the marinade mixture and let sit for 10 minutes.
2. Mix together the ingredients for the sauce: chili garlic sauce, soy sauce, chicken stock or water, and cornstarch. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl or plate, mix together the cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Dredge the chicken in cornstarch mixture and shake off the excess cornstarch.
4. Heat the 3 cups of peanut or vegetable oil in your wok until it registers 350°F on an instant-read oil thermometer. Working in 2 or 3 batches, add the first batch of chicken cubes and fry until golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.
5. Drain the oil into a heatproof container and save for discarding. Wipe the wok with a paper towel to remove any brown bits, but don’t wash.
6. Reheat the wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add another 1 tablespoon of oil and swirl to coat the base and sides. Add the dried chilis to the wok and and stir-fry until just they start to blister, about 30 to 60 seconds. Add the leeks, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Stir in sauce mixture and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Add the fried chicken, toss to combine, and remove from heat. Serve immediately.
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