Push Flavor To The Max In This Five-Spice Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

Imagine the crispiest popcorn chicken, plus a special five-spice seasoning that is infused throughout each piece: this Taiwanese popcorn chicken's got it all.

Video Transcript

JUNE XIE: Living in New York City, there is noise coming from every direction every day. But one of my favorite activities to take a break and calm down is to go to a bubble tea shop, order me some milk tea with boba inside, and also order a little dish of Taiwanese salt and pepper fried chicken. It's apparently a very common street food in Taiwan, but because I've never visited Taiwan, my main exposure to this kind of fried chicken has always been in the presence of boba tea shops.

The best part about this chicken is it's exactly like popcorn chicken, but it's the crispiest version of popcorn chicken you'll have ever had. Plus, it's seasoned very simply, but very savorly. You can basically put whatever spices you want into your version, but I'm sticking with my pretty traditional mix here. Plus, the addition of onion powder, which isn't quite traditional, but I like how sweet and savory it is at the same time.

Plus, we're going to add on a little MSG at the end. You don't have to do it, but I'm going to do it because MSG is delicious. For a little added spice at the end, we're going to hit it with a little bit of finely ground gochugaru, which you can skip, or you can substitute with smoked paprika, or ground cayenne. Whatever you want, do you.

So, a five spice powder is not really any set five spices. You can find premade five spice powder in a lot of Asian grocery stores or even online. And you can see here that this mixture is cinnamon, fennel seed, star anise, ginger, and cloves. Which means you can make this at home if you can't find five spice powder. We're also going to add in a little bit of szechuan peppercorn to give our five spice another layer of flavor.

Today, I'm going to be using some dark meat. You can go ahead and use white meat if you want. Really not picky. Dark meat is just a little bit fattier and flavorful to me. We're going to go ahead and trim away the skin, and the bone, and chunk this meat into 1 inch pieces. You can also go ahead and just buy boneless, skinless chicken thighs. To get started on this recipe, we're going to infuse some flavor into the meat first, which means we're going to marinate the meat in a mixture of flavorful ingredients for at least half an hour at room temperature. If you're going longer, you can slide it into the fridge for up to four to six hours.

For our marinade in a medium large bowl, we're going to grate in three cloves of garlic. To that we're going to add some five spice powder, ground white pepper, a little bit of freshly ground black pepper, a little bit of ground szechuan peppercorn, a little bit of onion powder, a little bit of packed brown sugar for sweetness, a little bit of soy sauce. Rice wine vinegar is going to go in. That acidity is going to help tenderize our chicken and it's going to help peal the flavors a little bit.

Traditionally, the marinade has some shao shing wine in there. So, shao shing wine is really hard to find in the US if you want the good, authentic stuff. The stuff that I have is not really that great. It's a little bit bitter. So, I'm going to use the next best thing for me, which is rice wine vinegar. Feel free to substitute as you see fit.

In addition to all of that, we're going to slide in a little bit of toasted sesame oil for extra savoriness. And then we're going to go in with a egg white. This egg white is going to help coat the chicken, it's going to help tenderize the chicken, and it's going to help keep moisture in the chicken when we're frying it. As for the egg yolk, go ahead, save it for another use, maybe make some lemon curd with it.

Once all of your flavorings and seasonings are in that bowl, we're just going to give it a quick whisk until everything's smooth and combined. You want to make sure all the spices are distributed evenly in the egg whites and the liquids. And then you're going to plop in your cut chicken. You're going to give that a nice little toss. You're going to gently massage it in a little bit to make sure everything's evenly distributed. And then you're going to let it rest. Half an hour, we'll come back to it.

In the meantime, you can prep your little batter station, which is really simple. It's basically going to be cornstarch and a little bit of baking powder for added crunchiness. And then you're going to season it very lightly with a little bit more of five spice powder. Give that all mix, make sure it's nice and combined, set it aside, we'll dredge in our chicken later.

In a small bowl, we're going to mix our seasonings together that we can sprinkle on our finish fried chicken. In that small bowl, we're going to go in with more five spice powder, a little bit of ground white pepper, a little bit of ground black pepper. In addition to, I'm using some gochugaru finely ground for a little bit of spice. You can skip, you can sub, you can do whatever you want.

Once your chicken has rested for half an hour, go ahead and start heating up your oil. I'm going to use peanut oil today. I like the slight nuttiness that it gives. You can use any neutral frying oil that you desire or have on hand. Now, if you don't have a deep frying thermometer, it's OK. You can use a wooden skewer to see if your oil is ready for frying. When it is ready, there should be bubbles escaping from the skewer. Otherwise, just keep an eye on the look, the color, and the texture of your chicken to determine whether or not it is time to fish them out.

The secret to this chicken being crispy is a double fry method. So, for the first fry, we're going to go with a lower heat around 325, 350. We're going to cook them in batches. OK? You don't want to overflow the pan. And I'm using a small amount of oil in a smaller pot so I'm going to do more batches. If you want to go ahead and use more oil, feel free to do a bigger batch, but make sure whatever you do that there's enough breathing space in between each piece of chicken so that they can fully fry up and get crispy.

We're going to fish them out, we're going to let them dry while we cook the remaining batches. And then we're going to turn our fryer oil up to 400 degrees or 375. Just make sure that your heat is on pretty max. And then you're going to plot back all of your once fried chicken to make them twice fried chicken. We're going to go until it's nicely, hardily, deep golden Brown this time. We want the crunchy, crunchy bits. And we want the nice, rich colors.

As soon as each batch comes out nicely golden brown and delicious, we're going to sprinkle them with a little bit of our seasoning powder mix, and a little bit of salt, and if you want a little MSG. I love MSG because it adds another layer savoriness. It just makes that food taste just a little bit more addictive, which is exactly what you want in a snacky street food.

While your oil is still hot, we're going to plop in our basil leaves. Now, make sure before you plop in your basil leaves that they are patted dry completely. You don't want moisture mixing with hot oil. That will cause a lot of splatters, and that will give you a lot of pain, and shooting grease in your face. Once our dried basil hits the oil, it's going to take it about 20 seconds to turn a little bit translucent and a little bit crispy. Perfect. Fish it out, set it on top of your seasoned chicken, and enjoy.

The little hit of saltiness, the little hit of five spice, a little hit of spice gochugaru, and a little pinch of MSG. Just perfect. The basil leaf is super fragrant. The chicken tender on the inside, crunchy on the outside, totally perfectly spiced. This snack food is great to enjoy on its own or you can pair it with homemade milk tea. Or you can dip it into a variety of dipping sauces. Whatever you want. I'm sure it's going to be great with honey mustard, or ketchup, or even barbecue sauce.

If you gave this recipe a try, please let us know down below how you liked it. And let us know what spices you put in yours. I want to know all your secrets. Tell me what worked. Tell me what's delicious. Until then, drink lots of water, keep sane, keep healthy. See you next time.