I-Can't-Feel-My-Face Chicken

The sole problem I have with cooking spicy food at home is that I can never seem to get my food as hawt as restaurants do. I’m one of those weirdos that actually wants to perspire while I gorge, just so I know it’s real~~~

During my time in Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province, this came without effort, resulting in my tastebuds and large intestine telling me to go fek myself.

Amid my July travels, I was already sweating ballz from the dangerously wet humidity mixed with scalding summer temperatures in the center of Sichuan’s concrete jungle. While a classic tourist reaction might have been to reach for an ice-cold water (or beer, in my case), the Sichuanese were sitting down in their plastic chairs, halogen lights a-flicker, hovering over a bowl of noodles that were both equally hot in temperature as they were in flavor. The only thing keeping patrons cool -  a shitty little fan, probably on the lowest setting.

Be that as it may, I side with the Sichuanese on this one. 

Sichuan’s cuisine is one of the most well-known in the world. Seemingly unachievable knife skills, easily recognizable flavors, and red hues of peppers making an appearance in every dish. One of which I hold dear to me: là zǐ jī (辣子鸡). Not pronounced like “lazy”, more like “la” as if you were singing, and “zi” as if you were going to say “zip” minus the “p”. “Ji” as in “gee whiz”, ya dingus. 

Sadly, I haven’t attempted to make là zǐ jī, strictly due to the fact that I have had it made so perfectly in its town of origin, that if I were to mess it up, I’d probably be doomed for all eternity. If one does decide to make it at home, I’d give this recipe a shot. This one looks good, too.

So how do I quench my thirst for heat while I’m up here in the Bei? With these lil sonzabitches:

I present to you, the bird’s eye chili. What they lack in size, they make up for with a boom! Pow! Bang! These relentless peppers are sold in China for a dime a dozen, hitting hard like Kimbo Slice. Certainly not for the weak, just like my quick take on là zǐ jī:

I-Can’t-Feel-My-Face Bird's Eye Chili Chicken

serves 2-3, 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 7-8 chicken tenders (I buy these free-range ones here, for Beijingers)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sweetener, I used honey 
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce, coconut aminos, or tamari (aim for organic & GMO free)
  • 1 teaspoon shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons starch (I had tapioca on hand, but use whatever you prefer)
  • 2 spring onions, sliced, whites separated from greens
  • 4-5 bird’s eye chilis, chopped
  • 2-3 Hangzhou peppers, roughly chopped ( the green ones in the picture, organic here)

DIRECTIONS

Preparation

  1. In a small bowl, combine your soy sauce, rice wine, starch and honey.
  2. Dice your chicken into either cubes or about half inch pieces.
  3. Add your chicken to the mixture and let marinate while you chop your aromatics.
  4. Mince your garlic and ginger, set aside 
  5. Slice your onion, reserving the green part 
  6. Chop your peppers, set aside 

Cooking

  1. In a wok or nonstick pan, heat enough oil to evenly coat the bottom 
  2. Begin sautéing your garlic, ginger, and onions on medium-high heat, until they smell heavenly. About 2 minutes 
  3. Lower heat to medium, add your chopped peppers, and sauté. Try not to cough all over everything, sicko. The smell of the peppers will definitely make its way into your nasal passage.
  4. Give the chicken a quick stir and add in to your aromatics. Frequently tossing until the chicken is cooked through, about 8-11 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat, serve over white rice. Garnish with remaining spring onions 

TIPS/SOURCING

  • You can likely find the chilis and Shaoxing rice wine at any Asian grocer, I didn’t see them at regular stores when I was in the US.
  • Tapioca starch makes things more sticky than thick. If you don’t like sticky, which I don’t usually prefer, you can omit the starch all together, or use whatever thickener you like.
  • Don’t eat this on a first date because you will look like the bad cop from Terminator 2 when he’s melting in that lava or whatever. Not hot.

Know someone that likes to dig on spicy food? Make this for them, share it on IG, and tag me: @woklikeme