A popular and delicious Hakka, Indian Chinese takeout dish, chilli chicken is made with crispy chicken chunks tossed in a spicy chilli sauce. Packed full of amazing flavours from both worlds.
You will find this popular dish in both Hakka Chinese restaurants and Indian restaurants, so does this make it a Hakka dish or an Indian Chinese dish? The real question is: Does it really matter? It’s fantastically delicious and it’s two regions of the world working together by combining their techniques and flavours to produce a very loved dish. 🙂
If you have never had this dish before then definitely try it out. If you enjoy takeout dishes like sweet and sour pork, crispy beef or Mongolian beef then you will probably enjoy this dish as well. It uses the Chinese takeout technique of ‘deep frying and tossing it in a thick sauce to coat it’ that most of us are very familiar with but uses a dark spicy chilli sauce instead of the usual sweeter sauces.
Almost all of of the ingredients can be found at your local grocery store.
Why do I use 2 kinds of soy sauce? Dark soy is a thicker, less salty soy sauce. It is used for this dish to mostly give it the signature dark colour.
For the chilli powder, this is usually found at a Indian grocery store. The chilli powder at local grocery stores usually are a blend of cumin and other spices – this is not the type of chilli you would use for this recipe. That type of chilli powder has a more tex-mex kind of flavour. Indian chilli powders are just pure chilli peppers blended into a fine powder with no extra spices, so this gives just heat. When you are looking for chilli powder, make sure there are no other extra spices in the ingredient list – it should only be chillis. If you cannot find this, you can substitute it 1:1 with cayenne pepper.
Hot Hot Hot?
The type of hot peppers you use in this dish will be your preference, depending on how spicy you like your food.
For a milder spicy, go for the bigger green chillis. I found they have a mild spiciness to them if you use about 3-4 of them and you can kick it up to medium easily by increasing the amount to about 7-8 of them.
If you are into the very spicy foods, then I’d say go with the smaller green thai chillis. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, these peppers are POTENT. 😛
I like to use about 6 of the larger green chillis combined with 1-2 of the smaller thai chillis. This gave me a medium spiciness that was just right since I am personally not a huge fan if making my foods so ridiculously hot that I can’t taste anything except for heat.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
Spicy Chilli Sauce
To make the chilli sauce, you essentially combine all the ingredients (except the corn starch slurry thickener) and let it sit out to ‘marinate’. You want the heat from the chillis to meld into the sauce.
When adding in the corn starch to the sauce, create a slurry with it first with a few teaspoons of cold water – then pour the slurry into the soy sauce and mix. Corn starch is a funny ingredient that doesn’t always want to play nice when mixed with sauces directly so the easiest way to deal with it is to mix it with a small amount of cold water first, then add it to the sauce. (You can put the corn starch slurry in the sauce at the very end right into the pan when the sauce is cooking but I find it easier to just combine it to the sauce in the beginning. One less step to worry about.)
Deep Frying Chicken
What makes this dish delicious is the deep frying step. There is honestly no way around it. You can do a shallow fry in a pan with less oil but you will still need to deep fry it to a certain extent to create a crispy exterior.
I personally LOVE crispy foods, but find it slightly irritating when it when it is 60% batter and 40% chicken. This dish is lightly coated and therefore has a very light crispy exterior. This makes for a less greasy end product as well. 🙂
The flavour in the crispy marinade is mainly ginger, garlic and onion. Traditionally in chilli chicken there isn’t any onion in the marinade/batter but I find adding the onion gives it a little something something. Caramelized onion is honestly the secret weapon here. Traditions are always broken around here anyways 😉
My local takeout joint is going to miss me 😉
A popular and delicious Hakka, Indian Chinese takeout dish, chilli chicken is made with lightly battered crispy chicken chunks tossed in a spicy chilli sauce.
- 1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken (preferably dark meat)
- 1/2 green pepper
- 1/2 onion
- 2 tablespoons garlic-ginger-onion mix (reserved from marinade)
- 1/2 onion (small)
- 3-4 slices ginger
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 tablespoon chilli powder (or cayenne pepper) *see notes at the bottom*
- 1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3-4 tablespoons water
- 6-7 tablespoons corn starch (mix this in with the chicken after you are done marinating, right before deep frying)
- 5-6 green chilli (or green thai chillis if you like it spicier)
- 1 1/2 tablespoon dark soy
- 2 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- t tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons corn starch (mixed with 4 teaspoons of water)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder (or cayenne pepper) *see notes at the bottom*
- 1/2 cup water
- With a food processor, blitz the ginger, garlic and half a small onion until it is a fine paste. Reserve 2 tablespoons of this for browning the onions and green peppers later.
- Cut up the chicken into small bite sized inch pieces and marinate it in a bowl with the ginger-garlic-onion paste, soy sauce, chilli powder, black pepper and water. (Do not add the corn starch yet. We will add that right before we deep fry the chicken.) Marinate in the fridge for 1 hour
- Chop the green peppers and remaining onion into bite sized pieces and set aside
Making the Sauce
- Chop up the chillis in the slices (keep the seeds) and add it to a small bowl
- Add in the rest of the ingredients in the sauce ingredient list except the corn starch
- In a small bowl, mix 2 teaspoons of corn starch with 4 teaspoons of cold water, then add it to the sauce and stir to combine
- Set the sauce aside
Putting it Together
- In a wok, frying pan or deep fryer set the oil to 375F (191C).
- Add in 6-7 tablespoons of corn starch to the chicken and mix until combined and chicken is coated lightly
- When the oil is hot, add the chicken into the oil to cook in batches (careful not to over crowd the oil, which can drop the oil temperature)
- Cook the chicken for about 5-6 minutes and set aside on a plate with paper towel or newspaper when it is done
- In a wok or frying pan, set the stove to medium to medium high heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil
- When the oil is hot, add in the 2 tablespoons of ginger-garlic-onion mix that was reserved from preparation and cook it until it is toasty and brown. Approximately 1-2 minutes. Careful not to burn it.
- Add in the onions and green pepper chunks and cook it for about 2 minutes. We want to keep the veggies somewhat crisp still
- Give the sauce a quick stir (the corn starch likes to settle at the bottom) and add it to the wok
- Keep stirring the sauce until it thickens and becomes translucent and thick
- Once the sauce has thickened, add in chicken and mix everything together until the chicken is coated with the sauce
- Turn off the heat and enjoy it with some rice! 🙂
- The chilli powder at local grocery stores usually are a blend of cumin and other spices – this is not the type of chilli you would use for this recipe. That type of chilli powder has a more tex-mex kind of flavour. Indian chilli powders are just pure chilli peppers blended into a fine powder with no extra spices, so this gives just heat. When you are looking for chilli powder, make sure there are no other extra spices in the ingredient list – it should only be chillis. If you cannot find this, you can substitute it 1:1 with cayenne pepper.
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