This cookbook demystifies it all.
Slice the onion and red bell pepper into fine matchsticks and the chicken into 1 1/4 in (3 cm) wide strips. Put the chicken into a small mixing bowl, add the marinade ingredients and, using your hands, massage the pieces until they are evenly coated.
Mince the garlic and Thai chile, and finely slice your scallion. Crush the Sichuan peppercorns with a mortar and pestle. Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl or ramekin.
Build your wok clock: place your sliced onion at 12 o’clock, then arrange the bell peppers, dried chiles, chicken bowl, crushed peppercorns, garlic, Thai chile, sauce bowl, cashews, and scallions clockwise around your plate.
Heat 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a wok over high heat until smoking-hot. Add the onions, red bell peppers, and dried red chiles and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes until the onions are lightly browned and slightly softened.
Reduce the heat to medium (so as not to burn the onions), push the veg to the side of the wok, and add 1/2 Tbsp of vegetable oil to the center.
Bring the wok to smoking point, add the chicken, and stir-fry 3 to 5 minutes until golden brown on all sides.
Lower the heat to medium, add the crushed peppercorns and garlic to the wok, and stir-fry for another 2 minutes, then add the Thai chile and sauce and continue to stir-fry over medium-high heat for another 2 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and reduced and is sticking to the chicken.
Add the cashews and cook for a final 30 to 60 seconds, tossing the wok to combine all the ingredients well. Tip onto a large plate and sprinkle over the scallion to finish. Serve.
Swapsies: Can’t find Sichuan peppercorns? Swap them out with a mix of crushed juniper berries and chili flakes.
Tip: If you’re a keen chile eater and fancy something with a little more punch then throw in a mixture of different types of chiles here: dried or fresh, whatever you can get your hands on.
About this recipe
"The region of Sichuan is situated on the Western side of China and is therefore heavily influenced by ingredients from Tibet and northern India—the most significant of which, Sichuan peppercorns, has become increasingly popular in the West in recent years. Sichuan peppercorns (dried red berries, native to China) have a distinct fragrance when crushed and provide a unique numbing feeling all over the tongue: something the Chinese call ma la. They can be easily found in most Asian grocery stores." -- Jeremy Pang, Essential Chinese Cooking.