Keeping it hot and spicy

Chongqing Mala Chicken

It was during my industrial training 30 years ago that I realised my love for cooking. I enjoyed being in the kitchen and preparing something than be available outside to serve the guests. 

Rajesh Dubey

I still remember how I was asked to become a part of the Indian food section, tandoor to be specific. When I finished my diploma course, I realised that I was good at making salads and its various combinations. That’s truly where my love for food started. 

My first assignment was oriental food. I worked in a restaurant in Mumbai and also with the Taj group for over a decade. During that time, I travelled to South East Asia and trained there. I now work as the chief culinary officer for Speciality Restaurants Ltd. 

Asian food has become very popular amongst us, but it’s only when you go to certain regions do you understand how different each cuisine is for them. 

Cantonese cuisine is not spicy as one would expect. Stir-fries and steaming is the technique that is largely used in their cooking. They are also particular about using fresh ingredients, especially the meats.

In Sichuan, because of the climate conditions, chilli and pepper is used there. It’s completely different from the Cantonese dishes. 

The ones we have here has a mix of both. But I am very particular about the freshness, where the ingredients are sourced from and to not over-spice it. Using techniques like slow cooking, steaming and braising is what makes each dish unique. 

My favourite Asian cuisines are Thai and Vietnamese. I think there’s so much to explore and experiment with both, and of course enjoy as well. 

The recipe shared today is of Chongqing Mala Chicken. It’s a Sichuan Cuisine dish which is very easy to make. I learnt about the dish during one of my travels. Ginger, garlic and chilli are largely used in the dish. The chilli, however, is just for flavour. 

The chicken is marinated and covered in corn flour before you deep-fry it. The corn flour makes sure that the chicken does not absorb too much oil but keep it juicy and moist on the inside. 

It’s a great appetiser when you are hanging out with your friends and very easy to make. You can enjoy this with a chilled beer or a drink of your choice. But you can also use it as a side dish with your main course. 

Ingredients

Boneless chicken thighs, 200 gm
Cooking oil for frying, 50 ml
Chilli peppers, 20 gm
Sichuan peppers, 5 gm
Ginger sliced, 5 gm
Garlic clove, 3 gm
Scallions (white part and green part cut separately), 10 gm
Sugar, 5 gm
Sesame seeds, 2 gm
Salt, 2 gm

 

For Marination
Dark soy sauce, 3 to 5 ml
Rice wine, 5 ml
White pepper powder, 2 gm
Corn flour, 5 gm
Salt, 2 gm

Method

Cut the dried chilli peppers, discard the seeds and then soak the peppers in water for 15 minutes. We do so to avoid the burning of peppers when we fry them.
Cut the boneless chicken thighs into small cubes.
In a large bowl, marinate the chicken cubes with all the marinating sauces. Mix well and set aside for around 10 minutes.
Heat oil in the wok or pan for the deep frying. Heat until really hot, add the marinated chicken cubes in the hot oil and fry till golden brown. Transfer out.
Get a clean wok or pan and add ½ tablespoon of oil and then fry the peppers for 1 to 2 minutes over a slow fire until most of them become dark red in colour.
Add Sichuan peppercorn in and continue frying for another 1 minute over a slow fire.
Push the spices to one side and add ½ teaspoon of oil and fry ginger slices and scallion white and garlic until aromatic.
Return the fried chicken cubes, add roasted sesame seeds, sugar, salt and scallion green section. Mix well and serve immediately.

Note: The cornstarch used will help in reducing the oil absorbed by the chicken while frying and will keep the chicken tender.

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