If you haven’t yet tried this crispy delight then here is your chance to enjoy Taiwanese Salt and pepper chicken to the fullest. Salt and pepper is a classic combination but there is a lot more to this recipe than you could ever imagine. After my first experience trying these crispy ‘tender pops’ I never looked back.
I was looking to cook something unique for a house party, and luckily found this recipe. From the cooking process to the serving style and everything in between, it was a blast. And today I am going to bring that fun to your kitchen as well. You just need to gather some very basic ingredients and follow a few simple steps.
Taiwan crispy chicken is now popularly known as popcorn chicken in most parts of the western world. That’s because of the popcorn-like appearance of the salted crispy chicken. In Taiwan, this dish is served as a snack and sold on every other corner as a street snack.
If you are in Taiwan and craving some popcorn chicken, then you can find it anytime even in the middle of the night. The fried chicken is usually available in bite-size pieces coated with flour. It is first fried and then seasoned. Salt and pepper are the basic condiments used with basil leaves and chili powder as extra options.
Ever since the rise of this dish in Taiwan it has become popular over the rest of Asia.
Yan Su Ji Time Travel
Quick popcorn chicken is renowned for its portability and super crispy texture. It has broken through the barriers that other snacks could not. Due to the immense demand within Taiwan and outside of it, this chicken has gained quite a reputation in street food markets.
The history of this fried chicken is not as old as other traditional recipes I have shared here. It is a product of the highly competitive food industry of Taiwan, which is all about providing more versatility and better options to the people along with crisp and tasty flavor.
The basic Yan Su Ji recipe didn’t involve much use of spice and was kept as mild as possible. But over a period of the years, the seasoning evolved as personal preferences came into play. Originally it was just salt and pepper, but then chili powder came into use. And today people also use mustard powder, allspice, seaweed powder, and more to season the chicken.
Cheese filling inside the chicken coating or honey for marination are also quite popular additions in some regions.
People certainly enjoy extensive varieties of this chicken.
Another special thing about popcorn chicken is that it uses a unique cooking technique. It is not simply fried in hot oil, but rather is fried at two different temperatures. First it is cooked at high temperature and then at low temperature. You will come to appreciate this technique.
Basically, the high-temperature frying locks the juices of the chicken inside the flour coating whereas the low-temperature frying allows the chicken to be cooked completely from deep inside. This technique can also be used for any other coated chicken recipe if you want to keep the gravy locked inside.
Simple oil frying usually results in undercooking or overcooking of the meat and/or the outside layer. Using this method will save you from both. It will produce a thick fried layer on the outside and soft juicy chicken on the inside.
Traditional way of preparing the Taiwanese fried chicken
Taiwanese fried chicken is also a staple in Hong Kong, and most foreigners have tried this recipe while visiting Hong Kong. If you ever visit yourself it is a must to give local recipes and flavors a try. But even if you never get a chance, I am about to share the homecooked recipe of Yan Su ji. It is a basic version of the chicken that will give you a taste of modern China. Keep in mind that you can add whatever seasonings you prefer.
The cut of the chicken is important here. To make the chicken look like popcorn, you cannot use just any cut. It has to be sliced into small bite-sized pieces. Take a boneless piece of chicken, preferably chicken breast or boneless chicken thigh, and dice the meat using a criss-cross cutting technique.
Do not create a mash and avoid mincing the meat. Each piece should be separate from one another so that they will be coated well. This is important to maintain the texture of the chicken during frying.
The next crucial step is the marination.
The secret behind the rich and deep flavor of this chicken lies in this very step! So, whatever else you do, pay attention here. The marinade is prepared out of basic ingredients. Again, you can always get a bit creative.
Usually its soy sauce, garlic, salt, pepper, and sugar, mixed together in perfect proportion. Later the marinade is mixed with some flour to make it thicker. Let the chicken marinate in this mixture for 30 minutes at least. It allows for better absorption.
Marinated chicken is then coated with flour and fried well in the hot oil. Once that is done, the next stage is the seasoning of the popcorn chicken. This is the adding of flavors on the outside. Light seasoning would be enough. It is typically a blend of salt, pepper, chili powder, and five-spice powder. But again, you can add spices as per your preference.
Before we move on to the recipe, let me just clear up some possible health concerns about this recipe. It is true that the use of oil, soy sauce, and salty seasonings doesn’t exactly make this recipe a healthy one. But you can mitigate such concerns by choosing healthy oils for frying or using an Air fryer for frying, and also by replacing soy sauce either with mirin, or coconut aminos. Adding a teaspoon of honey to the marinade also increases its nutritional value.
Extra Crispy Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken Recipe
- 2 boneless chicken thighs, around 320g
- 2/3 cup sweet potato starch
- 1 small bunch of basil
- oil for deep-frying
- 5 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon beer
- 1/8 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 3 garlic cloves, finely grinded
- 1 egg, a smaller one
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
Here is where you start. Wash the basil leaves under clean water and drain the excess. Dry the leaves with a kitchen towel. Keep these leaves aside.
Now take a large bowl and add all the ingredients for the marinade in it. Toss in the chicken meat and mix well with the marinade. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes or 1 hour for marination. Drizzle half of the flour in the marination bowl and mix it all again.
Meanwhile, preheat oil in a deep wok to 170 degrees C. Spread the remaining flour on a shallow plate. Remove the chicken from the marinade and coat the chicken pieces with the flour. Shake off the excess and add the pieces to the heated oil. Let them deep fry until golden brown.
Use a slotted spoon to the transfer the fried chicken to a plate lined with paper towel. Remember to drain all the excess oil into the wok while transferring the chicken.
Once all the chicken pieces are deeply fried, reheat the oil in the wok up to 150 degrees C then add basil leaves into it. Return the chicken to the oil and let it stay for 30 seconds and then immediately remove it using a slotted spoon.
Now that the chicken is all ready and crisp, it’s about time to add some flavors. Mix all the ingredients for the seasoning in a dry frying pan. Toast the seasoning in the pan until you can smell the aroma coming out of it. Now sprinkle this seasoning over the fried chicken.
Toss the chicken well and serve warm with your favorite sauce or some delicious dip. Homemade sauces can go well with these chicken popcorns.
Taiwanese culinary culture is so full of surprises, and salt pepper chicken popcorns are just one among them. Crispy chicken popcorn is one great recipe to try at home and make your family fall in love with the crunch.
The chicken is first marinated then fried in a generous coating of flour. The marination adds deep and rich flavor to the chicken inside, and the flour gives it quite a crisp. The fried pieces are then seasoned again with a delicious blend of spices, which enhances the taste twofold.
These popcorns are served commonly at parties or as a mobile snack. You can even deep freeze them like store-bought tenders and simply fry well before serving. Enjoy!