School of Wok's Stir-fried Sichuan Chicken

Sichuan peppercorns have a distinct fragrance when crushed and provide a unique numbing feeling all over the tongue: something the Chinese call ma la

Recipe kindly contributed by Jeremy Pang from his book Chinese Unchopped.

School of Wok's Stir-fried Sichuan Chicken
PREP TIME 20 mins COOK TIME 15 mins MAKES 4

Ingredients

  • 1⁄2 onion


  • 1 red pepper


  • 400g boneless chicken thighs


  • 3 garlic cloves


  • 1 bird’s-eye chilli


  • 1 spring onion


  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns (found in most Oriental supermarkets)

  • 10 dried red chillies


  • 200g cashew nuts


  • 1 1⁄2 tablespoons vegetable oil


The Marinade

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil


  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar


  • a large pinch of Chinese five-spice
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce


  • 1 1⁄2 tablespoons cornflour

The Sauce

  • 2 teaspoons chilli paste or chilli bean paste

  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce


  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce


  • 3 tablespoons rice wine


Preparation method

  1. Slice the onion and red pepper into fine matchsticks and the chicken into 3cm-wide strips. Put the chicken into a small mixing bowl, add the marinade ingredients and, using your hands, massage the pieces until they are evenly coated.
  2. Finely chop the garlic and bird’s-eye chilli, and finely slice your spring onion. Crush the Sichuan peppercorns with a mortar and pestle. Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl or ramekin.
  3. Build your wok clock: place your sliced onion at 12 o’clock, then arrange the peppers, dried chillies, chicken bowl, crushed peppercorns, garlic, bird’s-eye chilli, sauce bowl, cashew nuts and spring onions clockwise around your plate.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a wok over a high heat until smoking-hot. Add the onions, red peppers and dried red chillies and stir-fry for 1–2 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned and slightly softened.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium (so as not to burn the onions), push the veg to the side of the wok and add 1⁄2 tablespoon of vegetable oil to the centre.
  6. Bring the wok back to smoking point, add the chicken and stir-fry 3–5 minutes until golden brown on all sides.
  7. Lower the heat to medium, add the crushed peppercorns and garlic to the wok and stir-fry for a further 2 minutes, then add the bird’s-eye chilli and sauce and continue to stir-fry over a medium-high heat for another 2 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and reduced and is sticking to the chicken.
  8. Add the cashew nuts and cook for a final 30–60 seconds, tossing the wok to combine all the ingredients well. Tip onto a large plate and scatter over the spring onion to finish. Serve.
  9. ‘Swapsies’: Can’t find Sichuan peppercorns? Swap them out with a mix of crushed juniper berries and chilli flakes.
  10. Tip: If you’re a keen chilli eater and fancy something with a little more punch then throw in a mixture of different types of chillies here: dried or fresh, whatever you can get your hands on.