Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken
The fast-food joints have now opened, but I am still wary about ordering take away. Besides, nothing beats home cooking with great ingredients that South Africa has to offer. I had major cravings for some Taiwanese "street food," and this is a particularly popular one. Taiwan is popular with night markets with a variety of foods, but this dish, in particular, is found in every night market. The other motivation to make this dish is to overcome my fear of deep-frying and get familiar with this method of cooking. My journey during the lockdown period has forced me to slow down and truly enjoy the joy of cooking (as Julia Child would describe the art of food). Thus, I have tasked myself to explore different methods of cooking and get comfortable with it too. A significant benefit from this process provided me an opportunity to understand an ingredient's unique qualities and improve my taste palette to create new recipes. Always get to know the basics of your ingredients! This recipe is not only limited to chicken, but you can also choose any protein of your choice - I would recommend fish balls and pork - or vegetables if you are vegetarian, like cauliflower or aubergine. I have selected chicken breast in this recipe as it was available in my fridge, but traditionally using chicken in bone, popularly the thigh, as it is easier to obtain the juicy, tender meat texture. This recipe was an inspiration from "Souped-up Recipes," you can take a look at her vlogs on YouTube, the idea to use orange juice instead of rice wine came from her. Ingredients: 500g Chicken breasts, cubed about 5cm x 5cm (Keeping the size even helps to control the frying time) 1Tbsp Soy sauce 1Tsp Fine salt 1Tsp Five-spice powder 4 Cloves garlic, zested/pressed 1 1/2 Tbsp Ginger, grated 1/2 Tsp Onion powder 2 Tbsp of Cake Flour 1 Egg white 2 Tbsp Orange juice, preferably fresh orange Sweet Potato Starch (地瓜粉) As needed to coat the chicken. The Chinese supermarket sells this as "tapioca starch" but be sure it says 地瓜粉 on the packet! If you can't find this, you can use cornstarch too - it will just lack the course texture. 2 handfuls of Thai basil Frying Oil
Pepper spice to taste
Cayenne pepper powder
Steps: 1. Mix all the ingredients above, except the sweet potato starch, Thai basil, and oil. 2. Let the mixture marinate for 15 minutes. 3. Pour the sweet potato starch into a flat bowl and coat the chicken, it is easier to cover in batches. 4. Heat the oil in a wok/deep pot at medium to high heat. Test your stove to which works best; you don't want to burn the skin too quickly. 5. Fry the coated chicken in batches. Don't overcrowd the wok. 6. It takes roughly 5 minutes to cook a batch, or when the chicken is floating in the oil with a nice browning is a good indication that it is ready. 7. Line your serving dish with 2 /3 layers of paper towel to drain the excess oil. 8. When frying your last batch, cook the Thai basil for 10 seconds and take out of the oil. Only once all the basil has been removed from the oil should you switch off the stove. Sprinkle over the chicken popcorn. WARNING: make sure you have a lid ready to cover the pot immediately when you put the basil in to protect yourself from oil burns! it also helps to make sure that the leaves are also as dry as possible. 9. Season the chicken popcorn in batches with the pepper spice and cayenne pepper for a chili bite. The spice recipe below. Recipe Spice Ingredients: 2 Tbsp Sichuan Peppers 1 Tbsp Black Peppercorns 1 1/2 Tbsp coarse salt 1 Tbsp White pepper powder Steps: 1. Toast the Sichuan pepper, black peppercorns, and coarse salt until lightly toasted, ensure you don't burn the Sichuan peppers. You will get a fragrant smell indicating its readiness. 2. Use a pestle to crush the toasted spice with the white pepper powder. Alternatively, use a grinding machine if you have one. It would be a good idea to keep the spice in a spice bottle to store for future use, and it makes it easier to sprinkle over the chicken popcorn.