Spicy Chengdu-Style Chicken with Peanuts
This chile-spiked Chengdu-style chicken is a mainstay at my house. Soaking the chicken overnight in rice wine and cornstarch makes the meat soft and tender. It also helps tighten the sauce and gives the chicken a twice-cooked slippery quality that’s a sign of good Chinese wok cookery. Make sure you have all of your ingredients prepped before you start cooking, once the wok is hot this dish comes together quickly.
Chengdu-Style Chicken with Peanuts, Chiles & Black Beans
- 20 to 24 ounces diced skinless chicken breast and thigh meat
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons shaoxing or sake (rice wine)
- 2 tablespoons toban djan (doban), fermented chile bean paste
- 2 tablespoons dark soy
- 2 tablespoons black vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons whole fermented salted Chinese black beans
- 2 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns, crushed
- 12 dried whole Chinese chiles (tsin-tsin chiles or Mexican arbols work well)
- 1 tablespoons sliced ginger
- 1 tablespoons sliced garlic
- 1/3 cup shelled peanuts (skinless)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 4 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 cup chopped scallions
- Cooked white rice for serving
Combine the chicken, cornstarch, 1 tablespoon of the toban djan and rice wine, and mix well in a large Ziploc bag or bowl. Cover/seal and place in fridge for 24 hours.
Drain chicken and discard any remaining marinade.
Preaheat wok over high heat for several minutes.
Combine the remaining toban djan, soy, brown sugar, vinegar and black beans in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the peppercorns, dried chiles, ginger, garlic, peanut, white pepper and sugar. Reserve both bowls.
When the wok is very hot, add the peanut oil and swirl. It should smoke and ripple immediately.
Add the bowl of peppercorns, dried chiles, ginger, garlic, peanut, white pepper and sugar. Swirl in wok. They should scorch immediately.
Add the chicken and 2/3 of the scallions. Let the chicken scorch and wok toss until cooked through (about 2-3 minutes). Use wok tools so you don’t break the chiles and can scrape across sides and bottom of the wok safely.
Add the bowl of liquid seasonings to the wok. Toss and cook for another minute or two. The sauce should reduce and tighten to a glaze.
Toss in the remaining scallions and immediately spill contents out on a platter and serve with white rice.
Photograph by Madeleine Hill.