Sunday, February 18, 2007

Numbing and Hot Chicken


I'm in love! In love with another cookbook. Thankfully my current favorite, On Top of Spaghetti, won't get too jealous. I can cook one dinner from each of them each week. The Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province by Fuchsia Dunlap is really sucking me in. I spent a few nights before bed this past week actually reading this cookbook. I read the forward, the intro and about the Hunanese pantry and have learned alot.

While flipping through the recipes, Numbing-and-Hot Chicken was one of the first that caught my eye. Maybe it was the photo or maybe it was because the word "numbing" is in the title. The numbing attribute is intriguing to me. It ends up that this dish calls for sichuan pepper which I happen to have since sichuan peppercorns are #72 on Food & Wine's Top Tastes to Try in 2007. In fact, I heard about this book from the F&W 100 list. Hot Hunan Shrimp is #49 and the blurb recommended this cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlap.

Tonight is Chinese New Year's so I decided try this out tonight and make an event out of it. I had so much fun going to the Asian grocery store to stock up on ingredients. After I got home, I took a deep breath and went at it. I cranked up the music and went to chopping up my chicken and veggies but it didn't take nearly as long as I thought. My wok has been very under-used so it was very happy tonight double-frying the chicken and then stir-frying it all together.

I only got confused at one part in this recipe. "3 scallions, white parts only" are called for. But the instructions say to "cut them into 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-inch pieces". Anyone who knows scallions know that is about as long as the white part is in total, let alone cutting in into pieces. And the picture had some green in it so I cut the greens into the 1 1/4-inch pieces and diced the whites into smaller pieces.

Numbing-and-Hot Chicken
ma la zi ji

Ingredients:
12 oz. bones chicken thigh or breast half, if you prefer, with skin
1 small red bell pepper, thin-skinned if possible
1 fresh red chili, or 1 tsp. dried chili flakes
3 scallions, white parts only
1 tsp. whole sichuan pepper
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 1/4 cups peanut oil for deep-frying

For the marinade:
1 Tbsp. Saoxing wine
1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
1/4 tsp. dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp. potato flour mixed with 1 Tbsp. cold water

For the sauce:
1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
1 Tbsp. clear rice vinegar
1/2 tsp. potato flour
3 Tbsp. chicken stock or water

Instructions:
Cut the chicken as evenly as possible into bite-size cubes. Place the chicken cubes in a bowl, add the marinate ingredients and mix well; set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.

Discard the stem and seeds of the pepper, and cut into small squares to complement the chicken. If using a fresh chili, slice it thinly, discarding the stem and seeds as far as possible. It the scallions are slender, cut them into 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-inch pieces, otherwise slice them on a steep angle. Crush the Sichuan pepper using a mortar and pestle. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

Heat the oil for deep-frying in the wok over a high flame to 300-400 degrees F. Add the chicken and stir briskly for about 30 seconds, until the pieces have separated and have become pale; remove from the oil with a slotted spoon. Allow the oil to return to 350-400 degrees F, then fry the chicken again until golden; remove and set aside. Drain off all but 3 tablespoons of the oil.

Return the wok to the heat and, working quickly over a high flame, tip in the red bell pepper, fresh or dried chiles, scallions, and Sichuan pepper and stir-fry briefly until they are wonderfully fragrant.

Stir in the chicken. Give the sauce a stir and tip it in to the wok. Stir briskly as the sauce thickens. Finally, off the heat, stir in the sesame oil and serve.


2 comments:

Kate said...

That looks really good. I might have to try it although I think I will just stir fry it since I don't care to deep fry anything. It causes my house to smell. I baked up some bacon this morning and the house still reeks of that!

rachel said...

That is funny -- I rarely make bacon because I HATE the small :)

I did notice a little smell. But I live in Florida so I can have the windows open!