Salt & chilli (or salt & pepper) dishes have become increasingly popular in Chinese takeaways and restaurants across Scotland over the last decade and for good reason. Descended perhaps from Chinese Jill Yuen dishes, the aromatic aroma and feel good factor provided by the classic mix of garlic and chilli combines perfectly with onions, spring onions, green pepper, rice wine and a sweet but hot and spicy salt mix to produce a dish bursting with flavour.
There are various ways to make the spicy salt mix and most Chinese supermarkets also now stock commercial brands. Szechuan pepper, black pepper or even a little msg can be added to the salt mix for a bit of variety. Some Chinese takeaway restaurants toast the salt in a dry wok and allow it to cool before combining it with the other ingredients, adding an extra depth of flavour from the cooking flavours drawn out of the wok by the salt.
The salt & chilli finish can be applied to various different dishes, from ribs and chicken wings to chips and mini spring rolls. My personal favourite and arguably the original and best is chicken breast, deep fried in potato flour until crispy and then flash fried with the vegetables and spicy salt mix . Deliciously addictive, devilishly spicy and definitely one to try.
Chicken in Salt & Chilli
1 large skinless, boneless chicken breast fillet (around 113 g / 4 oz weight)
5-6 tablespoons potato flour (or corn flour, or even custard powder!)
Vegetable oil for deep frying
1/2 small onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
2 spring onions, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 red chilli pepper, finely sliced
1 green chilli pepper, finely sliced
Dash of dark soy sauce
1 generous teaspoon salt & chilli mix (see recipe below)
2 tablespoons of rice wine or dry sherry
Dash of sesame oil
Trim any excess fat from the chicken breast and cut into bite sized pieces.
Whisk the egg in a bowl and add just enough of the whisked egg to to coat the chicken pieces. Mix well. Add the potato starch or cornflour to the chicken pieces and mix well once more until thoroughly coated.
When the oil is hot, deep fry the floured chicken pieces for 5-6 minutes or until cooked through and golden. Drain any excess oil and set the chicken aside in a bowl or keep warm in a low oven until ready to finish.
Heat a wok over a medium heat. When the wok is hot, add a few drops of oil. Add the diced onion, green pepper, spring onions, garlic and chillies. Add the dark soy sauce and mix well.
Return the crispy chicken pieces to the wok. Add the salt & chilli mix a little at a time for 30 seconds whilst stir-frying to ensure the chicken and vegetables are evenly seasoned. Increase the heat to high, add the rice wine or dry sherry and stir-fry for a final time. Finish with a dash of sesame oil and serve with egg fried rice (in which case the remaining whisked egg can be used) or plain chow mein noodles.
Salt & Chilli Mix
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/4 tablespoon Chinese 5 Spice
1-2 teaspoons dried crushed chilli flakes
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch of ginger powder
Pinch of white pepper
You can find an alternative szechuan pepper salt & chilli mix recipe in More Takeaway Secrets along with a host of other Chinese takeaway style recipes including Chicken in Black Pepper Sauce, Sweet & Sour Pork Cantonese Style and more. Happy cooking!