Sichuan peppercorns are key to this dish.
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.
School of Wok's Stir-Fried Sichuan Chicken
- 1/2 onion
- 1 red bell pepper
- 14 ounces 400 g boneless chicken thighs
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 Thai chile
- 1 scallion
- 2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 10 dried red chiles
- 1 and 1/ 3 cups 200 g cashews
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- A large pinch of Chinese five-spice
- 3 Tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 and 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons chili paste or chili bean paste
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 3 tablespoons rice wine
- 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 tablespoon 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 tablespoon 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.