Though I’ve never been to Taiwan, there’s one thing I know for sure: I’m a huge fan of night market-style fried chicken that’s also known as Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken.
I’m not sure about the name, except to say I think it’s called that because you end up eating a vat by popping it in your mouth.
This recipe is a variety of xiaochi (aka “finger foods”) found in Taiwanese night markets and is more or less the cousin of popcorn chicken except this version is seasoned with garlic, soy, and a good amount of Chinese Five-Spice powder. I first tried it on a Six Taste tour of Arcadia and it has since become a staple anytime we want something bar food-esque but homemade.
The result is a barely breaded, headily-spiced, crisp-fried chicken, which is as good as a quick weeknight meal as it is as a cocktail party snack.
Taiwanese Night Market Popcorn Chicken Recipe
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken (dark or white meat), cut into bite-size pieces
For The Chicken Marinade:
- 1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder divided
- 1 teaspoon ground white pepper divided
- 5 garlic cloves finely chopped
For The Popcorn Chicken Coating:
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 large egg yolk lightly beaten
- 1 cup brown rice flour or potato flour
- Pinch chili powder for garnish
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
For The Frying:
- Canola, grapeseed, or peanut oil for frying
- 1 bunch Thai basil for garnish
- Marinate The Chicken: Mix the chicken with the soy, wine, sesame oil, sugar, half of each the Five-Spice powder and white pepper, and all the garlic. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 24 hours.
- Coat The Chicken: When ready to cook, stir cornstarch and egg yolk into the chicken mixture. Put the flour on a large, flat plate and mix. Add the chicken to the flour, toss to coat evenly, then knock off any excess flour. Let the chicken rest while the oil heats up (at least 5 minutes) — this will help the coating adhere better. Meanwhile, mix together the remaining five-spice powder with the white pepper, salt, and chili powder and set aside.
- Heat The Oil: Fill a heavy-bottomed pot or wok with 1-inch of oil and heat to 375°F over medium-high heat. Add enough of the chicken to form a single layer in the pan (about half) and cook until it is golden brown on all sides (you’ll need to do this in multiple batches), about 3 to 5 minutes per batch. Transfer the fried chicken out on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up the excess oil and immediately season with the salt mixture. Repeat with remaining chicken.
- Fry The Basil: Carefully add half of the basil leaves (it will sputter so cover with a splatter guard or stand back) and fry until crisp, about 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and repeat with remaining basil. Toss fried basil with chicken and serve immediately.