I should probably begin this post with a warning: this is not a light dish. That being said it’s a dish that you must try at-least once.
There is a Chinese saying, “For the people, food is their heaven” – and nowhere is this more evident than wandering through the historic hutong neighbourhoods in Beijing, where local cooks have developed and perfected their art.
Inspired by the colour, creativity, and pace of Beijing my KFC ‘Kate’s Fried Chicken’ is my riff on a Sichuan classic. The chicken is fried not once, not twice, but three times to produce the juiciest, most textually triumphant pieces of chicken. The addition of Sichuan peppercorns, chilli and ginger plays off the salty earthiness of the chicken beautifully.
It takes a little bit of time to chop, marinate and fry the ingredients but the result is an unforgettable dish, which is both appealing and delightfully overwhelming.
500g chicken – for the juiciest, tastiest results it is best to use chicken on the bone. Breast or thigh may be substituted but you may need to revise cooking time to prevent the chicken from drying out
2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
1 tbsp fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1 baby leek, sliced thinly on the diagonal – spring onion can be substituted
1 tsp tamari – or soy sauce
3 cups safflower oil, for frying
1 cup dried red chillies
3 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp chilli oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
Steamed rice and sliced spring onions, to serve
In a non-reactive bowl, marinate the chicken pieces with tamari – or soy sauce – cooking wine, salt, half of the sliced ginger and half of the leek slices. Mix well, making sure that all the chicken in coated in the marinade. Set aside for at least 15 minutes.
In a wok, bring the oil to a high heat. Carefully add the chicken – making sure to slide in gently as the oil is very hot. Cook until lightly golden. Using a slotted spatula remove the chicken from the wok and strain on paper towel.
Allow the oil in the wok to regain its heat and then return the chicken pieces. Cook until the meat has turned a dark golden colour. Remove from oil again with the slotted spatula and strain on paper towel.
Tip out the oil all but 2 tbsp. of oil from the wok. Place the wok over low heat. Add the peppercorns and chilies until they become bright red and aromatic. Add the chicken and the remaining leek and ginger, increase the heat and continue to stir-fry for approx. 3 minutes.
Add salt, and then a splash of cooking wine. Mix well. Finally add the sesame oil and chilli oil. Season to taste and serve.