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Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken on a board
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5 from 7 votes

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken (鹽酥雞)

Feast on bite-sized Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken that have an incredible crust. They're tossed in a homemade seasoning mix and loved for their juiciness.
Prep Time35 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr 20 mins
Course: Appetizer, Dinner, Lunch, Snack
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese, Taiwanese
Servings: 6
Calories: 211kcal
Author: Jeannette

Equipment

  • Food processor/Mortar and pestle
  • Colander/sieve

Ingredients

For The Marinade

  • 500 g / 1 lb chicken thighs
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp five spice powder
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp ginger (grated)
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 cubes fermented bean curd (optional)

For The Batter

  • 1 US cup sweet potato starch (or corn starch)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • cooking oil (for frying)

For The Seasoning

  • 1 tsp white peppercorn
  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorn
  • 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp five spice powder
  • 1 tsp hot paprika (or to taste)
  • 2 US cup Thai basil

Instructions

  • Cut the thighs into bite-sized pieces, roughly 3cm x 3cm (1" x 1").
  • Marinate them in the five spice powder, chicken bouillon powder, salt, sugar, grated ginger, finely chopped garlic, onion powder, corn starch, egg white, Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, pepper and mashed fermented tofu for at least 20 minutes.
  • Toast the white and Sichuan peppercorns on low-medium heat until slightly brown, then use a sieve to sift out any unwanted particles.
  • Use a food processor to grind the peppercorns into a powder. Alternatively, use a pestle and mortar to crush them to achieve the same result.
  • Combine the ground peppercorns with the five spice powder, paprika and salt.
  • Mix the corn starch and baking powder together, then coat the cut pieces in the corn starch mix. Use a colander to shake away any excess starch.
    Tip: Put a few pieces in at a time so they are well-coated. Dumping many in will run the risk of a wet batter.
  • Heat up a wok of oil on medium heat and fry the coated pieces for 5 minutes or until golden.
  • Remove the pieces and let it drip dry in a sieve. Turn the heat up to high and double fry them for another 2 minutes.
  • Just before the chicken is ready, toss in the Thai basil leaves and let them fry for 2 minutes or until crispy. Scoop the chicken and leaves out into a large sieve or colander.
  • Put a serving of Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken into a large bowl along with some Thai basil. Add some of the spice mix in and toss all together until the batter is evenly coated.
  • Serve immediately as is!

Notes

  • Marinate the chicken overnight. For the best flavor, make sure to let all the seasoning absorb for as long as possible.
  • Double or triple fry. It's no secret that double frying leaves fried food extra crunchy, just like in our Fish Sauce Chicken Wings. But you can take it to the next level by frying it a third time!
  • Use fattier cuts. If you want a succulent bite, it's ideal to go for a cut with more fat so that it melts into juices as it cooks.
  • You can find all of the marinade ingredients at Chinese supermarkets. The fermented tofu comes in a red or white version and is completely optional, but ideally go for the white fermented bean curd if it's available.
  • Traditionally, this recipe is made using sweet potato starch as the batter. If that's not available, you can substitute it with corn starch as we did.
  • This recipe uses white and sichuan peppercorns for the seasoning's base, but you can swap it out for black or green sichaun peppercorns if that's your preference.

Nutrition

Calories: 211kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 82mg | Sodium: 1453mg | Potassium: 206mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 247IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 1mg