This page may contain affiliate links. So, I receive a small commission at no cost to you when you make a purchase using my link. Here is a post about the wildly addictive Chengdu Chicken!
1,000 Foods To Eat Project
In this book, the author Mimi Sheraton lists her choices for the 1,000 Foods of the World that you MUST try.
This is how I came across this amazing dish called Chengdu Chicken. Chengdu is the capital of China’s Sichuan province. Sichuan cuisine is characterized by having very big and bold flavors. There is quite a liberal use of garlic, dried chilies, and Sichuan pepper. So if what comes to mind is the phrase “hot and spicy,” you would be right!
Chengdu Chicken is food #43 in my 1,000 Foods To Eat Project!
The Sichuan peppercorn is an essential ingredient in Chengdu Chicken. My first experience with this peppercorn was not the most pleasant. I decided I would eat one peppercorn to see what it tasted like. The peppercorn got stuck in one of my teeth, and there was this incredibly tingly feeling that I endured whilst trying to get the peppercorn out. It was an unforgettable experience!
This spice contains the molecule hydroxy-alpha-sanshool. This molecule interacts with nerve cell receptors in your mouth and lips which results in the numbing and tingling sensation you get from eating these peppercorns. Pretty cool!
Dried chilies are also essential to Chengdu Chicken. In fact, I’ve seen the phrase “would you like some chicken with your chilies?” in reference to this dish. 🙂
Chengdu Chicken definitely uses a lot of dried chilies! However, it’s my understanding that most of the time the chilies are not eaten, or at least not all of them! The diner can choose to leave the chilies, or eat however many they choose. So, technically this dish doesn’t necessarily have to be THAT spicy.
You can leave all of the chilies whole, or if you would like more heat, snip some of them so that the seeds fall out into the dish.
What is Mala?
Mala is a term used to describe many Sichuan dishes. It is the combination of two different types of spicy. One is what we normally think of as spicy…the type caused by capsaicin in chili peppers. This is the “la” part of mala.
The “ma” part refers to the tingly and numbing effect of the Sichuan peppercorns.
Therefore this combination of Sichuan peppercorns and dried chilies is to be respected! Respect given to this amazing combination of foods which provides such an addictive flavor combination called Mala!
What Ingredients Are Needed to Make Chengdu Chicken?
If you are ready to tackle this dish (and I know you are!) this is what you will need:
- Sichuan peppercorns
- Dried Sichuan or Asian chilies
- Chicken (I used half and half dark and light meat, but you can use all dark if you prefer)
- Scallions (spring onions)
- Peanut oil
- Toasted peanuts (for garnish)
- Corn starch
- Shaoxing rice wine
- Soy Sauce
You can also buy Shaoxing rice wine here on Amazon. Shaoxing cooking wine is used prominently in Chinese cooking. So, if you purchase a bottle and want to cook more delicious Chinese dishes you are ready to go!
The Method To Make Chengdu Chicken
There is a little bit of prep involved to make this awesome dish. However, once everything is prepped this dish comes together pretty quickly so be ready. 🙂
You will then need to marinade largish sized pieces of chicken for around 30 minutes. The marinade will consist of soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, sugar, corn starch, and some of that freshly ground Sichuan pepper. 🙂
Next prep your ginger, garlic, and scallions. You will need to thinly slice the garlic and ginger, and chop the scallions into 1″-2″ sized pieces.
Finally, you will prep some sauce for the stir fry which will include more Shaoxing rice wine, sugar, corn starch, salt, and yes, more freshly ground Sichuan pepper!
Hot Wok Time!
Now let’s heat up that wok! Or large skillet! Once the peanut oil is smoking (the wok/skillet needs to be HOT), simply add the marinaded chicken and fry each side (without crowding) until you get a nice color.
Remove the chicken after frying and then lower the temperature to medium. You’ll then add the garlic, ginger, and scallions to a few more tbsp of peanut oil, followed by a copious amount of dried chilies.
Stir this around until fragrant. Lastly, turn up the heat again, add the chicken and stir fry sauce and stir everything to incorporate. In just a couple of minutes your masterpiece will be ready!
Oh, garnish with chopped toasted peanuts if you are so inclined. 🙂
Enjoy Your Masterpiece!
It’s time to get those chopsticks out! This picture with so many chilies may look scary or intimidating but don’t worry! As mentioned previously, you don’t have to eat all the chilies, or any of them for that matter.
You can see above that Steve moved most of the chilies to the side. 🙂 Served with rice, this has become an addictive taste to me I absolutely love it and I hope you will too!
The first time I made this dish my whole mouth went numb. I thought I had done something wrong! At that time, I didn’t really understand what mala was. Then I realized that the numbing effect is characteristic of the dish. This first time I ate very few of the chilies.
The second time I made it I was totally enthralled! This time, I ate all of the chilies. LOL I also completely coveted that tingly and numbing feeling. I know this might sound strange to someone who is not initiated with this type of cooking. However, now I CRAVE THIS MALA TASTE and actually I am making this dish again tonight!
Will You Take The Chengdu Chicken Challenge?
Will you take the Chengdu Chicken Challenge? You MUST! After all, it is one of the 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die. 🙂 I hope you will it a try!
Some Other Dishes You May Enjoy!
If you’d like to come along on this food journey with me, please sign up to get the latest recipes and inspiration for you to expand your food comfort zone! It’s an incredible journey, please join me by signing up here. 🙂
The One and Only HOT and NUMBING Chengdu Chicken!
- Wok or large skillet
- 1/2 lb chicken breast cut into largish pieces – IF YOU PREFER YOU CAN USE 1 LB CHICKEN THIGHS INSTEAD OF ANY CHICKEN BREAST
- 1/2 lb chicken thighs cut into largish pieces – leave any skin on
- 5 tbsp peanut oil split
Marinade for Chicken
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 ts sugar
- 2 ts corn starch
- 1/2 tbsp ground Sichuan pepper
Sauce for Stir Fry
- 2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 ts sugar
- 1 ts corn starch
- 1/2 ts salt
- 1/2 tbsp ground Sichuan pepper
Other Ingredients For Stir Fry
- 2 inches ginger sliced thinly
- 8 cloves garlic sliced thinly
- 4 green onion chopped into 1"-2" pieces
- 2.5 cups dried Sichuan chilies add more if you dare! You can leave whole, or snip some if you prefer a spicier experience!
- toasted peanuts chopped for garnish
- If you have whole Sichuan peppercorn, then grind 1 tbsp of the peppercorns using a mortar and pestle or spice or coffee/grinder. Set aside.
- Combine marinade ingredients in a small bowl and stir well.
- Marinate the chicken in the marinade ingredients for about 30 minutes.
- Add 3 tbsp of the peanut oil to a wok or large skillet and set your stove to high. Once the oil is smoking (it needs to be hot!) add the chicken so that each piece has its own space on the wok/skillet and doesn't crowd each other. Leave it for a bit until it browns…it shouldn't take long. You will want to check to make sure it doesn't burn. Turn the pieces over and brown the other side. Once browned, remove the chicken and set aside.
- Turn down the heat to medium and add remaining 2 tbsp of peanut oil. When the heat is at medium, add the garlic, ginger, and scallions. Continuously stir for around a minute, and then add the whole dried chilies (or whole + snipped chilies). Stir until fragrant, about a minute or two.
- Turn the heat up back to high, and quickly add your chicken. Stir to incorporate, and then add the sauce for the stir fry (be sure to mix this sauce well just before adding to the stir fry). Stir well and the dish will be ready in a couple of minutes or less!
- Garnish with chopped and toasted peanuts if you desire!