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Szechuan Chicken

This spicy Szechuan chicken stir fry is better than the takeaway!

I love the numbing heat of Szechuan peppercorns and this Szechuan chicken recipe calls for a good dose of them. The heat is nothing like that of chillies and doesn’t linger.

The dried red chillies and chilli oil do though but you can add them to taste.

If you like a good heat in a dish, you’re going to love this Szechuan chicken recipe!

Szechuan chicken

Better than the takeaway! You’ve got to give this Szechuan chicken recipe a try.

 

I’ve been making and serving this recipe for as long as I can remember. I did grow up near San Francisco after all and the ingredients were so easy to source even back in the early 80s.

In San Francisco, Szechuan chicken is one of the most ordered and loved Chinese stir fries. Usually, quite a few dry red chillies are added to the dish which give it a good heat. You can add as many or as few as you like. In fact, they aren’t even meant to be eaten.

The chillies spice up the sauce and make it look pretty. I do eat a few though just because I love them.

If you would like your Szechuan chicken super spicy, cut the chillies in thirds and add the seeds too. If that isn’t the heat you are going for, throw them in whole.

Which cut of chicken?

You could use chicken breasts or thighs. I recommend the brown thigh meat though as it has so much more flavour.

Depending on the restaurant you go to for your Szechuan chicken, the meat will be cut into tiny or bite sized pieces. Personally, I prefer good bite sized pieces but that is of course up to you.

Want to make your Szechuan chicken even spicier?

I often cook this recipe with chilli oil and a good tablespoon of the chillies, shallots and garlic that settle at the bottom of the jar.

Sourcing Szechuan peppercorns…

Szechuan peppercorns are one of my favourite spices. They are actually berries and don’t only taste nice but smell amazing too.

You can find them at Asian shops and online though I highly recommend finding a good shop so that you can spell them before you purchase.

Good quality Szechuan peppercorns should have a pungent aroma that practically hits you in the face. If you don’t get that, they may not be the best.

The difference between Szechuan chicken and that other hugely popular dish General Tso’s Chicken…

Szechuan chicken originates from China and is popular there too. General Tso’s is an American Chinese restaurant invention.

Generally speaking Szechuan chicken is usually spicier than General Tso’s chicken. Although the sauces are similar, General Tso’s does not call for Szechuan peppercorns either though I see no reason why you couldn’t add them anyway.

Another difference is that General Tso’s chicken is marinated in a light batter and deep fried. Szechuan chicken is only dusted with flour and shallow fried.

Really though, that’s just being technical. You can mix and match to your liking.

Step by step photos

Ingredients for Szechuan Chicken

Get all your ingredients together before starting. It’s a lot easier.

Marinating chicken

Place the chicken in a large mixing bowl and add the marinade ingredients. Mix well to coat.

Mixing the sauce ingredients together.

Now stir the liquid sauce ingredients together and set aside.

Dusting chicken with the flour

Marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Then, when ready to cook, dust the chicken pieces with the rice and cornflour (corn starch).

Frying the chicken.

Bring an inch of vegetable oil up to 180c/356f and fry the chicken pieces in small batches until lightly browned. It takes about 3 – 5 minutes per batch.

Fried chicken resting on a rack.

Transfer the fried chicken to a rack to drip off any excess oil.

Adding aromatic ingredients to wok

Drain the oil and wipe your wok clean. Then add about 2 tbsp oil, the garlic, ginger and spring onions (scallions). Chinese chilli garlic past is a good addition if you like it spicy.

Adding dried chillies and white pepper

Stir in the dried chillies and white pepper.

Adding veggies to Szechuan chicken

Add the onions and bell peppers and stir fry until just cooked through and still a bit crisp. The stir in the sauce mixture.

Szechuan Chicken

Stir in the fried chicken.

Szechuan chicken

Ready to serve! Dig in!

If you like this Szechuan chicken recipe, you might like to try some of these too…

Salt and Pepper Chicken
Sesame Chicken
Sweet and Sour Chicken
General Tso’s Chicken

Yield: 4

Szechuan Chicken

Homemade Szechuan chicken
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 700g (1 ½ lbs) boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1 inch pieces
  • FOR THE SAUCE
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 100ml (1/3 cup) chicken stock
  • FOR THE MARINADE
  • 2 tbsp Chinese rice wine
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Dry Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp rice flour
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • FOR THE STIR FRY
  • Oil for shallow frying
  • 1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp spring onions (scallions)
  • 1 onion, quartered and cut into small 2.5cm (1 inch) petals
  • 1 red bell pepper cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces
  • 1 tablespoon szechuan peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • 15 small dried red Chinese or bird’s eye chillies
  • 1 tsp white pepper

Instructions

  1. Start by preparing the sauce. Whisk all of the sauce ingredients in a mixing bowl until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Now place the chicken pieces in a mixing bowl and add the marinade ingredients. You can cook almost immediately or allow to marinate overnight for even better results.
  3. Place the dry ingredient to coat the chicken on a plate and then dust the marinated chicken pieces with the flour. Be sure to shake off any excess flour.
  4. Heat about 2.5cm (1 inch) of vegetable oil in a wok and place over a medium high heat. The oil needs to reach 200c/400f before adding the chicken. If you don't have any oil thermometer. place the end of a wooden chopstick or spatula in the oil. If bubble begin to sizzle around the wood immediately, your oil is ready.
  5. Cook the flour coated chicken in small batches. If you add too many pieces, it will cool the oil so don't do that.
  6. Fry each batch until the chicken is lightly browned and crispy. Transfer to a rack to drain off any excess oil. This should all take about 5 - 7 minutes.
  7. Pour out the oil and clean your wok with a paper towels. Then add about 1 tbps oil and fry the garlic, ginger and spring onions (scallions) for about 30 seconds.
  8. Add the onions, bell peppers and szechuan peppers fry for about a minutes or until the veggies are just cooked through and still a bit crisp.
  9. Sti in the dried chillies, white pepper and sauce and bring to a simmer. Then return fried chicken and to the wok and stir to coat in the sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

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Homemade Szechuan chicken

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