Sichuan Peppercorn Chicken
October 29, 2022  Print
Today’s recipe, Sichuan Peppercorn Chicken (藤椒鸡 Teng Jiao Ji), has much to do with the Sichuan peppercorns. Sichuan peppercorns are unique from other peppercorns. Their numbing and tingling effect is what gives the Sichuan cuisine its “mala” (numbing and spicy 麻辣’s “ma” (numbing 麻) characteristic. When it comes to Sichuan peppercorns (花椒), there is actually much to learn. Even for me, I used to have two misconceptions about the different types of Sichuan peppercorns.
My first misconception was that I thought the green Sichuan peppercorns (青花椒/麻椒) are dried when the peppercorns are still young. And I thought the red Sichuan peppercorns (红花椒) are dried when the peppercorns are mature. Well, it turns out they are actually two different types of Sichuan peppercorns altogether. The red Sichuan peppercorns have more fragrance than the green Sichuan peppercorns, but the green Sichuan peppercorns definitely have more numbing effect and a longer duration for that effect. This is probably why the green Sichuan peppercorns are also called “numbing peppercorns 麻椒” in Chinese.
My second misconception was that I thought Sichuan green vine peppercorns (藤椒) and green Sichuan peppercorns (青花椒/麻椒) are the same thing. Appearance wise, they do have similar colors and shapes. Taste wise, they also both have the distinctive numbing flavor that is unique to Chinese Sichuan cuisine. But they are also two different plants! The green vine peppercorns (藤椒) have the least degree of numbing and shortest duration of effect among the three types of Sichuan peppercorns, but they have more fragrance than the green Sichuan peppercorns (青花椒/麻椒). I’ve also never seen dried green vine peppercorns because they don’t dry very well. They are mostly sold fresh (like grapes) or made into oil. In my 24 years of living in the US, I’ve never seen fresh Sichuan green vine peppercorns, but I have no problem finding green vine peppercorn oil (藤椒油) here. The green vine peppercorn oil has a smooth and fragrant numbing flavor.
Anyway, that’s my brief explanation of Sichuan peppercorns. If you are new to Sichuan cuisine, you might want to start with the green vine peppercorn oil (藤椒油) or red Sichuan peppercorns (红花椒). Then as you become “numbed” through practice, you can upgrade to green Sichuan peppercorns (青花椒/麻椒).
Today’s recipe uses the green vine peppercorn oil as a main ingredient. Ideally, if you have fresh Sichuan green vine peppercorns, you should infuse the oil yourself, but like I mentioned earlier, I’ve never seen it sold in the US. So green vine peppercorn oil will have to suffice.
Gluten Free, Low Carb
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes (including cooling time)
- 1 small free range or organic young chicken (about 3-4 pounds or 1.4-1.8 kg) 1
- 2 to 3 green onions
- 1 2-inch piece of ginger
- Some kosher salt
- ~1/4 cup green vine pepper oil (藤椒油) 2
- 1 green onions
- 2 to 3 fresh chili peppers 3
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce (optional) 4
- Follow the instructions, steps 1 to 4, in my Lazy/Easy Whole Tender Chicken to cook the chicken with a rice cooker. Alternatively, use an Instant Pot or Dutch oven to cook the chicken.
- Prepare a large bowl of ice water. After the whole chicken has been cooked, immerse it in the ice water. This allows the skin to tighten up. SAVE all of the chicken juice. While chicken is being cooled, prepare the sauce.
- Chop the green onions and fresh chili peppers into small pieces. In a small bowl, add the green onions, chili peppers, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and at least 1/2 cup of the chicken juice.
- Heat a cast iron pan or skillet under medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the 1/4 cup of green vine pepper oil (藤椒油). Heat the oil until warm only. Then pour the oil into the bowl with green onions and chili peppers, mixing well. Mix in the 1 teaspoon of light soy sauce.
- Cut the chicken first in half. (Only half the cooked chicken is used for this recipe.) Use a cleaver to cut the chicken into desired sizes and lay them on a large bowl. Alternatively, shred the chicken meat with both hands. Pour the sauce on top. Eat right away or refrigerate first for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours for a deeper flavor.
- See notes in my Lazy/Easy Whole Tender Chicken for more details about chicken selection and different cooking methods. Only half the cooked chicken is used here. If using the entire chicken, double the amount of salt and soy sauce.
- I prefer a stronger numbing (ma 麻) flavor. If you are new to the numbing flavor, you can reduce the amount of oil by half to 2 tablespoons.
- You can use any type of fresh chili peppers based on your heat tolerance.
- Soy sauce adds more savory flavor. You can opt it out and use only salt. Use gluten free soy sauce or tamari if you are gluten intolerant.
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