Spicy dishes often come with chiles on top to prepare diners for the fire lurking within. There are no extra peppers above Fuchsia Dunlop's Cold Chicken with a Spicy Sichuanese Sauce from Every Grain of Rice, but the deep fiery red of the chili oil should read as a warning sign to those wary of spice.
But this chicken dish is not only about searing heat. The cold poached chicken, with its slippery skin and succulent meat, is beyond tender and moist, the bright spring onions and brown rice vinegar enliven the rich oil-slicked sauce, and the roasted grown Sichuan pepper is the final electrifying touch to the plate, giving the dish its signature ma la.
Why I picked this recipe: A big fan of the ma la numbing-spicy concept in Sichuan cooking, I couldn't think of passing up this vibrantly chile-red chicken dish.
What worked: The slippery poached chicken takes well to this seriously spicy but well-balanced sauce, and the crisp green onions and toasted sesame seeds bring brightness and crunch.
What didn't: No problems here.
Suggested tweaks: Fuchsia recommends using cold leftover poached chicken in this dish for the best texture. You could also use the same amount of leftover roasted chicken if that's what you've got in your freezer. If starting from raw chicken, you'll need 1-1 1/4 pounds bone-in chicken to poach before chilling and slicing. If you want to tone down the spice a bit, leave out the chilli oil sediment and dial back on the oil to 2 to 3 tablespoons. Add extra chicken stock if needed to make up for the lost volume. Also, if you want to use homemade chilli oil (highly recommended), you'll need to start that a day in advance. You could poach chicken on that day as well. Plan accordingly.
Reprinted from Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop. Copyright 2012 by Fuchsia Dunlop. Photographs copyright 2012 by Cris Terry. Published by W.W. Norton & Company. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- About 3/4 lb (300–350g) cold, cooked chicken, without bones
- 3 spring onions
- 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
- For the Sauce
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Chinkiang (brown rice) vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon chicken stock
- 3–4 tablespoons chilli oil with 1/2 tablespoon of its sediment (or more, if you wish)
- 1/4–1/2 teaspoon ground, roasted Sichuan pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
Cut or tear the chicken as evenly as possible into bite-sized strips or slivers and place them in a deep bowl. Cut the spring onions at a steep angle into thin slices. Mix them and the salt with the chicken.
If using sesame seeds, toast them gently in a dry wok or frying pan for a few minutes, until they are fragrant and starting to turn golden, then tip out into a small dish.
Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
When you are ready to eat, pour the sauce over the chicken, and mix well with chopsticks or salad servers. Arrange on a serving dish and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.