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5 from 4 votes

Saliva Chicken (Sichuan Chicken in Chili Oil 口水鸡)

This Saliva Chicken recipe will yield the most succulent and silky Sichuan chicken. It's smothered in chili oil and can be served hot or cold!
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time2 hrs
Cutting The Chicken15 mins
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese, Sichuan
Servings: 5
Calories: 2074kcal
Author: Jeannette


  • Sieve
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Cleaver


The Poultry

  • 1 free range chicken
  • 75 g / 1.6 lb ginger
  • 2 stalks leek (or 1 large leek)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt (or to taste)
  • 3 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1/2 tbsp green peppercorns
  • 6 L / 26 US cup water (for boiling the chicken)
  • 4 L / 17 US cup water (for making an ice bath
  • 3 US cup ice cubes (for making an ice bath)

The Sauce

  • 20 g / 0.04 lb ginger
  • 25 g / 0.06 lb garlic
  • 1 sprig spring onion (finely chopped)
  • 3 chili
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 2 1/2 tsp sugar (or to taste)
  • 2 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 1/4 tsp black vinegar

The Chili Oil

  • 1 US cup cooking oil
  • 1 tbsp white sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 US cup chili powder (or to preference)
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely sliced)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 stalk spring onion (cut into 10cm/4" segments)
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 Chinese cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns (or to preference)

The Garnish

  • spring onions
  • coriander
  • white sesame seeds
  • cucumber (cut into thin strips)


The Poultry

  • Smash the ginger until flat.
  • Wash and cut the leeks into 15 cm (6") segments or 1 cm (0.4") segments if using a large one.
  • Bring the water to a boil in a large wok or pot and add the smashed ginger, leek, salt, green peppercorns and Shaoxing rice wine.
  • Start making Saliva Chicken by dunking the bird in from the neck or head until the body is completely submerged, then lift it out of the water to let the liquid drain out of the inside.
    Repeat this step 3 times. This is done to cook everything evenly from the inside out.
  • Add the green peppercorns into the pot and submerge the chicken into the pot of water.
  • Submerge the chicken into the pot of water. Put the lid on and turn off the heat, then let it sit in the heated water for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until cooked.
    Tip: Poke a chopstick deep into the flesh. If blood comes out, it needs to sit in the heated broth for longer.
  • After 1 hour and 30 minutes, prepare a large bowl of ice cold water. Take the chicken out of the pot and put it in the ice bath to cool. Reserve 4 tbsp of the remaining stock.

The Chili Oil

  • On a low heat, lightly toast the sesame seeds for 5 minutes or until golden.
  • In a bowl, combine the chili powder, white sesame seeds and salt.
  • Add the spring onion, garlic, bay leaves, star anise, cinnamon and Sichuan peppercorns into the oil and heat it for 5 minutes or until the ingredients have browned and oil is smoking.
  • Pour the oil through a sieve into the chili powder mix so the spring onion, garlic, bay leaves, star anise, cinnamon and Sichuan peppercorns are removed.
  • Stir well, then let it rest as you prepare the sauce.

The Sauce

  • Smash the ginger, garlic and chili using a mortar and pestle until it resembles a paste.
  • Stir it together with the spring onion, salt, sugar, light soy sauce, black vinegar and reserved stock.
  • Pour in the chili oil and stir. Set aside to be used on the Saliva Chicken.

How To Cut Whole Chicken Chinese Style

  • Cut off the neck and head from the end of the neck, just above the breast area. You can make a split using the cleaver then use your hand to hit the knife until it cuts all the way through.
  • If you want to keep the head for presentation, cut that from the neck.
  • Lift the wing up and make a slice where it meets the body. Continue cutting through in the same direction until you reach the joint.
    This will be softer than bone, so you can use the hand-hitting technique to cut it from the bone. Repeat for the other wing.
  • Use the cleaver to find the joint between the leg and the breast, then slice through the flesh to the joint. Cut through that and you'll end up with the leg and thigh. Repeat on the other side.
  • Cut the leg from the thigh where the joint is. Repeat for the other leg.
  • To remove the backbone, hold its body by the tail so it stands up vertically and cut from the base of the tail all the way down.
    You will come across a few bones along the way, but cut through them.
  • Cut the leftover breast piece in half long ways.
  • Now that all the pieces are cut, you can chop them into smaller pieces, roughly 2cm (0.8") thick.
  • To plate them, scoop the cleaver under the cut pieces, place your hand over cut pieces to hold them in place and lift them onto the plate.
    Then use your hand to gently slide everything off the cleaver. They will sit together as they were cut.
  • To serve Saliva Chicken, lay the cut pieces over a bed of cucumber strips and pour the chili sauce over it to cover the entire surface.
  • Serve immediately as is or refrigerate to enjoy cold!


  • Make the chili oil in advance. This will give the ingredients an opportunity to release their flavors deeper into the oil for a more fragrant result.
  • Use a sharp cleaver. Any knife that is blunt or too thin will make it difficult to cut the chicken, potentially resulting in loose bits rather than whole pieces.
  • Keep the bone on. Cooking any meat with the bone means extra flavor from the marrow found within the bone. You'll end up with juicier, more flavorful protein.
  • This Saliva Chicken recipe is traditionally made using the whole bird, but you can certainly use the cut that you prefer.
  • Let the sauce absorb into the meat. Give the dish an hour to rest with the sauce over it. This will help every piece absorb all the great flavor!
  • It's best to use a neutral flavored oil so that the aromatics can really come through. Great options with a high smoking point include peanut, vegetable, canola, grapeseed or rice bran oil.
  • You can find black vinegar in Chinese supermarkets. If it's not available, you can substitute it for white rice vinegar.
  • They can all be found fresh in Asian grocery stores. Herbs are often sold in bundles so you will more than likely get more than needed for this Saliva Chicken recipe, but they can be used to garnish many other dishes.


Calories: 2074kcal | Carbohydrates: 72g | Protein: 156g | Fat: 123g | Saturated Fat: 34g | Cholesterol: 571mg | Sodium: 19238mg | Potassium: 2550mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 21g | Vitamin A: 2665IU | Vitamin C: 225mg | Calcium: 493mg | Iron: 13mg