Szechuan Chicken is a popular Chinese takeout amongst fans of Asian food. The stir-fry is an irresistible mix of meat and vegetables. It's not difficult to cook this dish, and we've found the best recipes on the Internet for you to attempt cooking this dish.
What is it?
Szechuan chicken is a spicy dish of tender chicken pieces and vegetables fried together. Cooks usually add a sweet sauce to the mix.
It is a dish that often makes its appearance at the Asian family table, especially in Szechuan. Hot dishes such as this are popular since the region is known for its high humidity and rainy weather.
When Chinese immigrants brought the dish over to the UK, it also became popular since many like to eat something hot on the wet rainy days of England. The fiery kick of this dish is an excellent counterfoil to the chilly air.
What does Szechuan chicken taste like?
The Szechuan chicken takeout dish tastes sweet and spicy. It is usually cooked with a mix of sweet soy sauce, spicy peppercorns, and some minced ginger and garlic, which gives it a somewhat mouth-numbing sensation.
Cuts of meat
To cook your authentic Szechuan chicken recipe, you can use chicken thigh, wings, or breast cuts. They have different cooking times. The thigh takes, and the wing takes about 20 minutes to fry. You need about 10 minutes to fry the breasts, which cooks quickly.
Let's look at each cut of meat in detail.
Chicken thigh comes from the upper leg of the chicken. It has a higher meat content compared to drumsticks. You will typically see the part skinned and boned for you in your local grocery stores. Thighs have a tougher and chewier texture.
Szechuan Chicken Wings
The wings are composed of three parts: the drumette, the flat and the tip. The drummettes are the part of the wing attached to the whole chicken.
Chicken wings are beneficial to health. If properly cooked, they are good nutrition for metabolic disorders such as gout, arthritis, and diabetes. They are also crispier when stir-fried.
Chicken breast has high protein in comparison to other cuts. Lean breast is an excellent option for those on a weight loss diet or who want to maintain muscle mass. The texture compared to wings and thighs is much more tender.
An average serving of Szechuan Chicken contains about 300 calories.
Szechuan Chicken Ingredients
Here are the main Szechuan chicken ingredients:
- Chicken meat
- Szechuan peppercorns
- Dry red chilli
- Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing wine)
- Chilli bean paste sauce
- You will also need other aromatic spices such as garlic, ginger, and scallions for frying.
- Use light soy sauce, sesame oil and cornflour for your Szechuan chicken seasoning.
- A pinch of Chinese five-spice if you can find it.
You can purchase peppercorns at any grocery shop, but you also use crushed black pepper as a substitute. If possible, look for Sichuan Peppercorns in Asian supermarkets. Many restaurants use them in Chinese hotpot cuisines.
Any fragrant medium-hot chilli pepper with thin skin is acceptable for the chillies. Chinese rice wine is a must-have if you love Chinese cooking. It is also known as Shao Xing wine, but any rice wine can substitute it if you cannot find it in Asian supermarkets.
While Chinese five-spice is recommended for this dish, try a blend of onions, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon if you cannot find it. The taste of the combination is similar to five-spice.
Many recipes use chilli bean paste for the sauce, but try light soy sauce and chilli flakes if you cannot find this.
You can use cornflour for the batter of your Szechuan chicken, but if you prefer not to use cornflour, there are many substitutes.
First, you can use cornstarch. The main difference is that corn flour is made using dried corn kernels while cornstarch uses the starchy part of the corn. Corn starch helps to thicken the batter, so if you like a crispy texture, choose corn starch.
Another excellent substitute is rice flour. Rice flour is gluten-free and can also thicken your batter. However, it is not as crunchy as a corn flour coating.
All-purpose flour is another substitute that you can use for the batter. When fried, all-purpose flour has a nice crunchy texture.
Szechuan chicken goes well with broccoli as a side dish. The crunchy, raw flavour of broccoli helps balance the dish's spiciness.
Another side dish you can try is to add cashew nuts, which lends the dish an extra crunchy bite. You can stir fry them together.
Instead of chicken, you can also use fish. You get a tasty, aromatic dish when you boil fish and top it up with spices.
The sauce is made from a combination of Sichuan peppercorns, Shaoxing wine, chilli bean paste, Chinese five-spice, toasted sesame oil, light soy sauce, dried red chillies and aromatics including garlic, ginger and scallions.
Some recipes include chicken stock, however, this is optional. You can make the Szechuan sauce vegan friendly by excluding or replacing the animal-based stock with vegetable stock instead.
The sauce of this dish is a favourite of spicy food enthusiasts as it adds flavour without overpowering other ingredients. You can also use the sauce for other dishes, such as fish or vegetables.
Szechuan Chicken Cooking Tips
Use a wok
Ideally, try to use a wok for stir-frying the meat. A wok has a large surface area and retains heat. So your food will taste better. Heat your wok before adding the oil so that food does not stick to your work.
Pre heat your wok or frying pan
Since Szechuan chicken is a spicy stir-fry, you will need to prepare all your ingredients before turning on the heat and oil your wok or frying pan. Once you heat your frying pan, move quickly to not burn your ingredients.
Most stir-frying starts with oil between 325- 375 degrees, but the temperature drops you add food, and it should remain somewhere between 250 and 325 degrees. You can use a clip-on deep-fry thermometer to maintain the oil temperature.
Do not overheat your oil
You need to watch out for smoking oil. The smoking oil is a sign that the temperature is too high, and your food will taste charred. But if your oil is too cool, your dish will turn soggy. So bring your oil temperature back to your target range before you start cooking your authentic Szechuan chicken recipe.
While cooking fast over high heat is ideal for a stir fry dish, there is an exception. It is important to make sure you cook your aromatics over low to medium heat. This is because aromatics burn easily. If you add cook them under high heat It will taint your dish.
So make sure you control your heat when adding in your aromatics. If they burn, you can always add more aromatics in again if you need them.
Cooking order your ingredients
Based on the cooking time, decide what order to add your ingredients to your pan. Some ingredients, such as vegetables, take less time to cook. So, you can stir fry your meats first, then add your vegetables later.
How to cut your ingredients
Cut your meat and vegetables for maximum surface area. In this way, you ensure that the ingredients can contact the heat. It gives the food more flavour.
Control the batter thickness to your liking
For the batter, it depends on how crispy you prefer your Szechuan chicken. Similar to how to make lemon chicken Chinese style, add more cornflour for a crispier and thicker batter.
You can always add cornflour and water at the end to thicken the batter if you like.
How to serve
Szechuan chicken rice is a popular dish, but adding noodles is another way to enjoy the dish.
Some people like to eat it on its own. It is pretty trendy street food. But you can also add Szechuan chicken with broccoli and rice for a main meal.
Szechuan Chicken using an air fryer
If you are health conscious, try using an air fryer for this dish. You need your air fryer to be set to 180 degrees Celsius (or around 350 Fahrenheit). Fry for 5-8 minutes before flipping the meat over.
Since air frying heats the food using the surrounding air, you use less oil. Oil is high in calories and causes heart diseases, and we do not recommend it for those who need to keep to a strict diet.
Using an oven
An oven is an excellent alternative to cooking Szechuan chicken. When you fry meat at high heat, nutrients can be lost in the process. Baking helps to preserve the juiciness of the meat and its nourishing vitamins.
You will need to preheat the oven to 250 degrees Celsius (375 Fahrenheit) and bake. You need to roast the meat for 15 minutes before lowering the oven temperature to around 180 degrees celsius(350 Fahrenheit). Then continue roasting for another 30 minutes until you have thoroughly cooked the meat.
Szechuan Chicken Recipe | Chinese Takeout Dish
For the chicken:
- 2 tbsps soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon Chilli bean paste
- 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
For the stir-fry:
- 4 medium scallions
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 (1-inch) pc fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
- 3 tbsps vegetable oil divided
- 15-20 small dried red chillis
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- Combine soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, Chinese five-spice, cornstarch, salt, and white pepper. Chop your chicken into chunks and add to the mixture. Let your meat marinade.
- Cut some scallions, garlic, and ginger. Crush peppercorns with your frying pan, then mix them with sesame seeds. Put the peppercorns and sesame seeds mix aside.
- Fry your chillis over high heat and add oil. Once it darkens, remove it. Cook your chicken until it is golden brown on the outside. Then crumble your chillis and continue stir-frying your meat with your chillis.
- Move your meat to one side of the pan and add oil. Add your peppercorn, sesame seeds, garlic and ginger prepared in Step 2 and stir to coat the oil. Stir fry your aromatics with the meat.
- Add your scallions and sugar, then stir fry for about a minute until everything in your Szechuan chicken dish is combined.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
Serahs Cooking on Youtube has an excellent video recipe on how to make this authentic Szechuan chicken recipe. She adds chopped bell peppers as well as yellow onions as add on vegetables to the final stir fry dish.
Szechuan chicken is a wonderfully spicy dish that you can enjoy on a nice, cold day. If you’ve tried cooking it, tag us pictures of your creations on Instagram @honestfoodtalks.
Looking for another classic Chinese fakeaway recipe? Here’s our definitive guide on how to make authentic Chinese salt and pepper chicken!
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