Why It Works
- Cooking the chicken sous-vide allows you to cook it to a lower temperature than traditional methods, guaranteeing moister meat while maintaining food safety standards.
- Adding aromatics to the sous-vide bags packs the chicken with flavor before you even begin to dress it.
Whether you call it Bang Bang Chicken (named after the sound that a pounding mallet makes when tenderizing the tough chicken breasts of yesteryear) or Mysterious Flavor Chicken, this classic cold Sichuan chicken salad dressed with Sichuan peppercorns, garlic, sesame, and chili oil, can be updated using a few modern techniques. Cooking the chicken breasts directly in a bag with aromatics guarantees ultra-moist and flavor-packed chicken without the need for any banging at all.
- 1 3/4 pounds whole bone-in, skin-on split chicken breast halves (2 to 3 breast halves)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 cloves garlic, smashed, divided
- 6 whole scallions, 2 roughly chopped, 4 thinly sliced at a sharp bias
- 1 (1-inch) knob peeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons toasted whole Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons black or plain sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon sesame paste, preferably Chinese
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 4 teaspoons Chinkiang or black vinegar
- 1/4 cup chili oil with sediment (see note)
Season chicken generously with salt and pepper. Place chicken in zipper-lock bags or vacuum bags and add half of garlic, roughly chopped scallions, and all of ginger. Remove air from zipper-lock bags by closing the bags, leaving the last inch of the top un-sealed. Slowly lower into a pot of water, sealing the bag completely just before it fully submerges. If using a vacuum bag, seal according to manufacturer instructions.
If Cooking in a Sous-Vide Precision Cooker: Preheat a sous-vide cooker to 150°F. Add chicken and cook for at least 1 hour and up to 4. Transfer to an ice bath and let chill for 15 minutes.
If Cooking in a Cooler: Heat 2 quarts of water in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it registers 155°F on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a small cooler, add chicken, and seal cooler. Cook for at least 1 hour and up to 4, topping up with boiling water as necessary to maintain temperature of 150°F. Transfer to an ice bath and let chill for 15 minutes.
While chicken cooks, grind Sichuan peppercorns in a mortar and pestle until a rough powder is formed. Add sugar, remaining 3 cloves garlic, and sesame seeds and pound until a rough paste is formed. Add sesame paste, soy sauce, and vinegar and pound until a smooth paste is formed. Stir in chili oil and sediment. Set dressing aside.
When chicken is cooked, remove from bags and discard garlic, scallions, and ginger. Stir 2 tablespoons of juices from the bag into the dressing. Remove skin and bones from chicken and discard. Shred meat and transfer to a large bowl. Add dressing and sliced scallions. Toss chicken to coat in dressing and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, sprinkled with more scallions and sesame seeds and drizzled with additional chili oil if desired.
Sous vide precision cooker or a small beer cooler
Chili oil with sediment can be found in most Chinese supermarkets. Alternatively make your own by toasted 1/4 cup of dried ground Sichuan or Korean chilies in a dry wok until fragrant. Add 1/2 cup of neutral oil like canola and heat until lightly bubbling. Immediately transfer to a cool pot and let rest until cool. Chili oil can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator indefinitely.