Chili Chicken

Today, we bring to you some Indian Food, particularly regional cuisine is heavily influenced by its various rulers and foreign inspirations — one of the most enduring influences is our neighbour to the north, China and with it comes innovation that is Chilli Chicken.

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Chili Chicken By The Foodicts
Chili Chicken By The Foodicts

Today, we bring to you some Indian Food, particularly regional cuisine  is heavily influenced by its various rulers and foreign inspirations — one of the most enduring influences is our neighbour to the north, China and with it comes  innovation that is Chilli Chicken. While at first glance, Indian and Chinese food appears to have almost nothing in common, you will find an array of Chinese dishes that have been “Indianized” in the South, especially with the use of soy sauce, coconut milk and spices like five spice and star anise. Take this recipe for Chili Chicken. This is a classic example of South Indian Chinese cooking, with a soy sauce marinade adding the “Chinese” element and bursts of hot green chillies and tangy vinegar making it uniquely South Indian.

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South Indian Chinese food is well known all over the world as a cuisine in its own right. I joke that I was so used to eating all that heavily spiced “Chinese” food, that when I first tasted authentic Chinese food, I turned my nose up at how non-spicy it was. It took me a while to get used to it, and while real Chinese food can also be spicy, it’s really nothing like what we get in India. Chinese food is also hugely popular on the Indian streets. It’s not unusual to find vendors all over the country stir-frying vegetables and noodles or ladling out scoops of fragrant fried rice. Manchurian-style food is especially popular, like deep-fried chicken or vegetables that have been liberally slathered in chili ketchup and soy sauce. You can certainly see its appeal to the student population in India — this food is cheap, deeply

Chinese food is also hugely popular on the Indian streets. It’s not unusual to find vendors all over the country stir-frying vegetables and noodles or ladling out scoops of fragrant fried rice. Manchurian-style food is especially popular, like deep-fried chicken or vegetables that have been liberally slathered in chili ketchup and soy sauce. You can certainly see its appeal to the student population in India — this food is cheap, deeply

You can certainly see its appeal to the student population in India — this food is cheap, deeply savoury, and a food experience in itself. Fried rice, Hakka noodles, ginger and garlic

chicken — us South Indians always find a way to spice them up even more. It’s no wonder that one of my first stops, whenever I’m home for a visit, is one of these ubiquitous South Indian Chinese eateries.

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This recipe for chili chicken is from my Aunt. It is seriously delicious and will definitely not taste like any other Chinese food you’re used to. The original recipe, straight from my aunt, is brutally hot (and I love it) but I’ve modified it for my Western family. You can amp up the spiciness by increasing the amount of ginger and green bird’s eye chillies. I like to serve it with plain or egg fried rice, or if I am feeling “authentic,” with buttery egg noodles. Either way, it’s a ridiculously quick and easy way to satisfy  both your Indian and your Chinese spice craving.

Chili Chicken
Serves 4 – 6
Ingredients:
☐  1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (6 to 8 smallish ones)
☐  2 tablespoons dark soy sauce, plus extra if required
☐  Ground black pepper, to taste
☐  1/2 teaspoon bouillon powder (or 1/2 a stock cube)
☐  1 to 2 tablespoons neutral cooking oil
☐  1-inch piece ginger, finely chopped
☐  2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
☐  1 to 2 green bird’s eye chili(s), sliced (add more if you like your sauce spicy)
☐  1 medium green bell pepper, sliced
☐  1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
☐  1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
☐  1/2 teaspoon sugar
☐  Salt to taste
☐  Fresh, chopped cilantro, to garnish
☐  Sliced green onions, to garnish
☐  Cooked rice or noodles, to serve
Instructions: 

Cut each chicken thighs into 2 to 3 smaller pieces. Place them in a large bowl, and stir in the soy sauce, black pepper and bouillon powder. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours, or even overnight.

When ready to cook, let the chicken come to room temperature on the counter for 20 minutes. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, and add the ginger, garlic and bird’s eye chili. Sauté for a minute, until fragrant, then add the green pepper and chicken. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes, coating the chicken in the ginger, garlic and chili mixture.

Turn down the heat, and simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes, covered, until the chicken is cooked. If the pan looks like it’s drying out, add 1/4 cup of water.

Whisk the vinegar, cornstarch and sugar in a small bowl. Once the chicken is almost cooked, uncover the pan, and add the vinegar-cornstarch mixture. Continue to cook for a few more minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly. Taste and add salt to taste.

Serve, garnished with green onions and cilantro, over rice or noodles. This dish re-heats and freezes very well; the dish is even better on the second day. Leftovers will keep refrigerated for 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.

Recipe Notes

  • You can also garnish the finished dish with extra sliced, hot bird’s eye chilis.
  • This dish has a lovely, thick brothy texture. If you want it thinner, skip the cornstarch, and just add the sugar and vinegar.

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