This classic Taiwanese dish consists of crunchy popcorn chicken, dusted with pepper, salt and chili pepper, creating an addicting snack.
Last year I introduced a recipe for Taiwanese Salt and Pepper Popcorn Chicken, a delicious and addicting snack often found at Taiwanese tea cafes.
Since then, I’ve been playing around with the recipe and experimenting some more. I’ve learned a few things along the way. For instance, the best section of chicken to use is definitely the thigh meat. It’s very flavorful and absorbs the spices and marinade well.
I also found ways to get the fried chicken pieces to stay crunchy longer: using egg whites and vodka. I love making this whenever I have some leftover chicken thigh meat. Since I’ve learned how to make it, we no longer order it at restaurants anymore.
Here is the revamped recipe.
Taiwanese Salt and Pepper Popcorn Chicken
3 boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp five spice powder (This is a powder blend found at Chinese markets next to white pepper bottles)
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp shaoxing cooking wine
1/2 tsp white pepper powder
1/8 tsp black pepper powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp sugar
1 cup corn starch
1 extra large egg white, whisked
2 tbsp vodka
Oil for deep-frying
For the dusting:
handful of fresh Thai basil leaves
1 tbsp five spice powder/ or salt and pepper powder (found in Chinese markets labeled "salt and pepper for chicken" which consists of white pepper and salt)
1 tsp red chili powder
1. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken and marinade ingredients, making sure to completely coat the chicken. Let sit for 15-30 minutes.
2. Pour oil at least one inch deep into pot or wok being used for frying and turn to medium high heat. In a small bowl, whisk egg white with vodka. In a separate small bowl, add in cornstarch. When oil is heated, coat chicken in egg, then in cornstarch and then place into hot oil. Let chicken fry on both sides until batter becomes a dark golden brown. Work in small batches. When chicken is done, remove and place on a plate lined with paper towel to drain excess oil.
3. After you have finished with all of the chicken, turn off stove and drop in fresh basil leaves. Stand away from the stove while the leaves fry. They only need a few seconds but they will "pop." Once you hear the popping sound, they are ready to be removed. Sprinkle basil on top of chicken. Sprinkle an additional 1 tbsp of five spice powder or the salt and pepper powder and the chili powder on top of chicken and toss chicken to make sure all chicken pieces are coated with powders and mixed with basil. If you feel more seasoning is necessary, sprinkle a little more of the powders. Serve immediately while chicken is still crispy.