Chicken

Sichuan Hot Chicken

July 16, 2021
0 Ratings
Photo by Mandy Lee
Author Notes

Somewhere around the summer of 2015—or was it 2014?—I noticed a minor turbulence in my Instagram feed: over and over, flashing me with this bright orangey-red thing sitting on a piece of white bread they called Nashville hot chicken. Usually I let this kind of thing pass by as a blip in the ever-flowing hype of the internet cosmos—you know, today it’s this, tomorrow it’s face-printed lattes.

But as I watched people gushing over Nashville hot chicken (fried chicken coated in spicy grease) while sitting halfway across the world in China (where they happen to be exceptional at making spicy grease), the blip started talking dirty to me. Sichuan/Nashville fusion? It sounds wrong. I mean, it can’t be right. I want to say I’m sorry, but if I hadn't done it, someone else would've, and sooner or later some abomination caught between the two worlds would have appeared at your nearest Momofuku, ready to haunt your cardiologist.

Because—make no mistake—this is the kind of guilty indulgence you’ll feel like apologizing for. As if fried chicken alone isn’t bad (awesome) enough, we need to drench it in a fiery, lip-tingling oil to make it worse (awesomer). So I say, you do whatever you need to do in the aftermath to feel better about yourself. Do that cleanse, go to church, whatever…But right now, you’re gonna sink your entire face into this crispy, rouged monster, hear the sound of pleasure and pain crashing between your jaws, and grab a piece of that sweet, squishy pullman bread to mop up the blotches of mala paste around the corners of your mouth. Then you’ll eat that, too.

Make it biweekly, at the most.

Recipe excerpted with permission from The Art of Escapism Cooking: A Survival Story, with Intensely Good Flavors by Mandy Lee, published by William Morrow Cookbooks. © 2019 by Mandy Lee. Reprinted courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers.Mandy @ Lady and pups

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Sichuan Hot Chicken
  • Prep time 7 hours
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 4
Ingredients
  • Chicken & Marinade
  • 8 mixed bone-in, skin-on chicken legs and thighs (or if you must, 6 bone-in, skin-on breasts)
  • 2 large (25 grams) green scallions
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup (80 grams) Sichuan broad bean chile paste (doubanjiang)
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sake
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Mala Hot Paste
  • 1/4 cup (24 grams) Sichuan or Korean chile flakes
  • 2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 star anise pod
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 5 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) canola oil
  • 5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • Breading & Frying
  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (40 grams) potato starch or cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup (53 grams) rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon each ground white and black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Canola oil
  • Slices of squishy white bread (pullman or other loaf), for serving
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Marinate the chicken: Place the chicken in a large bowl. In a blender, purée the scallions, ginger, Sichuan broad bean chile paste, soy sauce, sake, brown sugar, Sichuan peppercorns, white pepper, salt, and water until smooth, then pour the mixture over the chicken. Rub each piece to make sure it’s evenly coated, then cover the bowl and marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours or up to overnight, turning the chicken once halfway through.
  2. Make the mala hot paste: In a spice blender, blend the chile flakes, peppercorns, white pepper, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and star anise until powderized. Set aside. Mix the sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, vinegar, and garlic in a small bowl and set aside. Heat the oil and butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, until brown bits start to form on the sides and bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat and add the powdered spice mixture. Stir and let cook for 1 minute, until the powder has darkened in color and smells fragrant. Add the sesame oil mixture and stir to combine evenly. Let sit for at least 1 hour (or you can make it the day before).
  3. Fry the chicken: Remove the chicken from the marinade and rinse off any excess sticking to the skin and meat. Dab really dry with paper towels (this allows the buttermilk and breading to stick better) and set aside.
  4. Prepare two bowls: In the first, whisk together the buttermilk and egg. In the second, whisk together the flour, potato starch, rice flour, baking powder, black and white peppers, garlic powder, baking soda, and salt. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture and mix briefly with a fork; this will create tiny coagulations of breading that make a great crust.
  5. Now wash your hands thoroughly. Working with one piece of chicken at a time, dip it into the buttermilk mixture, turning and drenching several times until evenly coated, then drain slightly and transfer it to the flour mixture. Press the flour mixture lightly into the chicken, turning to coat it until you can’t feel any sticky surfaces left. Tap the chicken to remove any excess flour, then set aside on a baking sheet. Rub off the coagulated breading sticking to your fingers and let it fall back into the flour mixture; this will create more crispy bits in the breading. Repeat to bread the rest of the chicken.
  6. Let the chicken rest for 10 to 15 minutes before frying. This allows the breading to hydrate and creates a crispier crust.
  7. Preheat the oven to 250°F/120°C.
  8. Using a Dutch oven or other pot for frying that’s at least 6 inches (15 centimeters) deep, pour canola oil in to a depth of 3 inches (8 centimeters). This will prevent the oil from overflowing when you’re frying. Heat the oil to 325°F/160°C, or until it bubbles up immediately around an inserted wooden chopstick. Without crowding the pot, in small batches, fry the chicken pieces until golden brown all around, 8 to 10 minutes for drumsticks and breasts and 10 to 12 minutes for thighs. Drain the chicken pieces well and transfer them to a sheet pan. Set the pan in the oven to keep the chicken warm while you fry the rest.
  9. Reheat the mala hot paste over medium heat to loosen its consistency (the butter makes the paste thick as it cools and hard to spread). Mix in 1 tablespoon of the cilantro, then brush the hot paste over the fried chicken to coat it evenly. Sprinkle the chicken with the rest of the cilantro and serve with squishy white bread immediately.

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