Salt and Pepper Chicken

By 6 m read

Salt and Pepper Chicken (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Salt and pepper chicken is a must have recipe in your fakeaway recipe rotation. I understand that if you live in a bigger city, everybody has their favorite Cantonese, Taiwanese, or Chinese salt and pepper chicken takeout hot spot, but where we live, not so much. 

 

So, what happens when the take-out food craving starts in your stomach and tingles the synapses in your brain and taste buds in your mouth?

 

It’s time to make not-fully-authentic but fully tasty salt and pepper chicken thighs the maplewoodroad way. We will use mostly pantry items, a few fresh ingredients, and within 30 minutes from start to finish, your cravings will have turned into reality with a satisfying, delicious, aromatic meal.

 

There’s just one ingredient in this dish that you either have to add to your pantry (and will use a lot) or – if you’re a little adventurous – make from scratch.

Salt and Pepper Chicken (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Chinese Five Spice

Chinese Five Spice is based on five elements – fire, water, wood, earth, and metal. According to Chinese medicine, these five elements make your body run smoothly and an imbalance will result in illness. In China, herbs and spices have a long tradition of being used to restore balance in the body. That’s how the Chinese Five Spice powder came to be.

Salt and Pepper Chicken (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

It’s a wonderful combination of different spices that will give any dish a warm and slightly spicy aroma. Every region has their own “secret” combination and amounts of spices, but in general, it’s a combination of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds, and Szechuan pepper. 

 

When I make my own batch, I use tellicherry pepper instead of Szechuan. That’s because tellicherry pepper is my go-to black pepper and I love the kick it gives to the whole concoction. 

 

The easiest way to grind all the ingredients is to use a coffee bean grinder, which works fantastic. And after grinding the spices – but before cleaning the grinder – immediately grind some coffee beans to make a very intriguing batch of five-spice coffee grounds. Absolutely delicious. 

 

Tip: If you don’t have a coffee bean grinder at home, you can also use a mortar and pestle to grind the ingredients, but this will take a little longer.  

 

Here’s the combination of ingredients I use in my Five Spice recipe: 

6 star anise pods

24 (1-½ tsp) whole cloves 

1 (3 in) cinnamon stick

2 Tbsp fennel seeds

3 tsp tellicherry peppercorns 

 

Salt and Pepper Chicken (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Salt and Pepper Chicken Recipe

Before heating the pan, have all the ingredients measured, chopped, and ready to go. Things will happen fast in this recipe.

Salt and Pepper Chicken (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Chop the onions, hot peppers, garlic, and scallions. 

 

Mix the Five Spice and cornstarch in a bowl.

 

Chop about 15 oz of boneless, skinless chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces. Make sure they’re dry so the spice/cornstarch mixture will be evenly distributed. 

 

Add the chopped chicken to the bowl with the spices and toss in the mixture. Use your hands to really rub the mixture into every nook and cranny of the chicken pieces. 

Salt and Pepper Chicken (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Heat about one cup of neutral vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium heat. The idea here is to have enough oil that it covers the bottom of the pan by about 1/4”. So, depending on the size of the pan you’re using, adjust the amount of oil accordingly. We’re not deep frying here. We’re gently frying the chicken by turning them in the oil until they’re golden brown and crispy all around. 

Salt and Pepper Chicken (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Tip: How do you know when your oil is hot enough to start frying, without using a thermometer? Stick the end of a wooden spoon in the oil. When bubbles start to form around the wooden handle, it’s ready. 

Salt and Pepper Chicken (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Fry the chicken in batches if necessary. You don’t want them to touch each other in the pan. Depending on the size of the chicken pieces, it takes about 5 to 7 minutes to be fully cooked. If you’re not sure if they’re done, take one out and cut it in half. Better to check than to guess. 

 

When the chicken is done, place on a plate with a paper towel. Drain excess oil from the pan, but leave about one tablespoon. Bring to high heat.

 

Add onion and hot peppers to the pan and stir for two minutes. Oh, yes, that smell…

Salt and Pepper Chicken (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Add the garlic, scallion, and a pinch of salt (1/8 tsp) to the pan for one minute. Finally, toss in the cooked chicken, mix it all together, and you’re done! 

Salt and Pepper Chicken (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Serve in a bowl with chopsticks. If you have some fresh basil around, chiffonade a bunch and sprinkle it on top. It’s a wonderful aromatic to add another layer of flavor.

Salt and Pepper Chicken (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Tip: If you don’t like it spicy, replace the hot peppers with bell peppers.

Salt and Pepper Chicken (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Love delicious chicken? Check out a few more of our recipes now!

 

Did you make this Salt and Pepper Chicken recipe? Let us know in the comments below!

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Salt and Pepper Chicken (Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Salt and Pepper Chicken

Salt and pepper chicken is a must have recipe in your fakeaway recipe rotation. It’s time to make tasty salt and pepper chicken thighs the maplewoodroad way!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Servings 2

Ingredients
  

  • 15 oz boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 c vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Chinese Five Spice
  • 1/4 c cornstarch
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 2 hot peppers, finely chopped (about 1 Tbsp)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tbsp)
  • 5 scallions, chopped in 1/2" pieces
  • Basil (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Before heating the pan, have all the ingredients measured, chopped, and ready to go.
  • Chop the onions, hot peppers, garlic, and scallions. 
  • Mix the Five Spice and cornstarch in a bowl.
  • Chop about 15 oz of boneless, skinless chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces. Make sure they’re dry so the spice/cornstarch mixture will be evenly distributed. 
  • Add the chopped chicken to the bowl with the spices and toss in the mixture. Use your hands to really rub the mixture into every nook and cranny of the chicken pieces. 
  • Heat about one cup of neutral vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium heat. The idea here is to have enough oil that it covers the bottom of the pan by about 1/4”.
  • Fry the chicken in batches if necessary. You don’t want them to touch each other in the pan. Depending on the size of the chicken pieces, it takes about 5 to 7 minutes to be fully cooked. If you’re not sure if they’re done, take one out and cut it in half. Better to check than to guess. 
  • When the chicken is done, place on a plate with a paper towel.
  • Drain excess oil from the pan, but leave about one tablespoon. Bring to high heat.
  • Add onion and hot peppers to the pan and stir for two minutes. 
  • Add the garlic, scallion, and a pinch of salt (1/8 tsp) to the pan for one minute.
  • Finally, toss in the cooked chicken, mix it all together, and you’re done!
  • Serve in a bowl with chopsticks. If you have some fresh basil around, chiffonade a bunch and sprinkle it on top. It’s a wonderful aromatic to add another layer of flavor. Enjoy!

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