Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stir Fried Chicken with Dried Chillies

What is life if not a juggling act, a dance, a frenetic shimmy here, and languorous glide there? We try to keep pace, keep as much balls in the air as we can. We’re not happy unless our agendas are filled to the brim, including margins and side notes….only to moan and cry as we struggle to check each task off. When did “busy” and “stressed” become status symbols?

Not everyone is like this. Oh no. There are brilliant people who know the real score and smile gently in the background as we do our frantic dance, racing to somewhere nameless with only the stubborn knowledge that we must race there, ideally with a hundred balls in the air and oh the chiding if we let one slip. These people have got it all figured out.

I don’t.

I still throw myself onto the hamster-wheel, running pell-mell into nowhere. I still grab much too many balls and then sigh about having to keep them all sailing smoothly.

But I’m learning.

I’m learning that I can set the pace at which I dance. I can choose the music and the steps too. I can choose how many balls I want to juggle, and which I can leave behind for others. I’m learning that all dancers have breaks and so should I. That doing nothing sometimes has its own purpose (my strong predisposition for “me-time” helps me along). That sometimes it is not life that is complicated, but we that make it so.

Cooking is one of those “balls” that I gladly keep in the air. It nourishes me and my family, but I’ll have to admit that I also cook for purely selfish reasons. I love it. It makes me happy. In truth, it is the therapy that keeps my stress at bay. As does scribbling it all down here. I suppose I wouldn't be doing it for almost 6 years if it wasn't :)

Stir Fried Chicken with Dried Chillies
(adapted from Xi Yan Cuisine by Jacky Yu)
  • 400 grams chicken thigh fillets
  • 1 egg white
  • A big pinch of sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 10 pieces dried chillies (adjust based on your preferred level of heat)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns, ground
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts
  • Canola or other vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- Cut the chicken fillets into 1-2 inch chunks. Mix with egg white, salt, and 2 teaspoons cornstarch and let this marinate for 1 hour.
- Mix Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, black vinegar, water, sugar, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, and sesame oil together and set aside.
- Heat oil in a wok or skillet. Fry chicken until about 60% done (you will finish cooking it later). Drain and set aside.
- Drain pan leaving only about 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the dried chillies and garlic and stir fry until chillies are toasted (slightly burnt is the original directive). Return chicken to the wok and fry. Add the sauce and cook further. Add peanuts and ground Sichuan pepper and toss until everything is well coated and the sauce is sticky.

I have taken liberties with the original recipe and have adjusted some things to suit what is easily available for me. The original called for caltrop starch which I have not the foggiest clue where to find, so I substituted it with cornstarch. The original also indicated Zhenjiang vinegar, which is likewise unavailable (if anyone has a supplier in Manila let me know!) so I used regular Chinese black vinegar instead.

I found this recipe in a old cookbook my godfather and his wife gave me. They live in Hong Kong and had attended a function of the chef/author (who has a restaurant in Singapore). His name is Jacky Yu and I know nothing about him except that he looks young and happy, his cookbook is half in Chinese, and that I love his stir fried chicken with chillies. And that's enough for me. In my kitchen I dictate how complicated or simple I want things to be.


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That dish looks mighty scrumptious! I am a sucker fro chillies, dried or fresh.



Linda Brewer said...

Your writing style is phenomenal. I enjoyed the intro to the recipe as much as, if not more than the recipe.

Ling said...

I've been to Xi Yan. It's GREAT. Updated Chinese classics!! It's one of those book-ahead places...

MZMackay said...

I love how you always pair your recipe posts with your input about life.

Both feed me. Your recipes feed my tummy, and your words feed me heart.

I know I'm being a bit dramatic, but it's true and I wanted you to know it.

And yes, I moved my blog again! LOL!

Anh said...

Love your sentiment in this post, Jo. And this chicken dish?! It will be on our dining table soon. :)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Rosa! We love chillies here too!

Hi Linda! Thank you so much! :)

Hi Ling! Wow! I'm so happy to know that! His cookbook is really interesting...lots of recipes I want to try :)

Hi Mieke! Thank you!!! Be dramatic all you want...I am happily snuggling with your flattery :) :) High praise coming from you! Thank you for letting me know and making my day :)

Hi Anh! Happy you enjoyed the post :) Hope you enjoy the chicken too!

The Chocolate Covered Kitchen said...

It looks delicious; very much like a dish I made the other night from Jason Harper's hilarious cookbook, Chinese Cuisine 101. I could eat this dish nearly every night.

thediplomaticwife said...

Gosh I don't know how you do it chichajo!!!... your intros are always so beautiful and such a delight to read! Unlike many others that are wordy and tedious to read yours are always such a joy! I hope that I develop such a writing style too! =)

Chinkee said...

Ooooh, I like this one! It brings two of matt's most favorite things together... Chicken and chilies! Will definitely try this out soon. Thanks Joey:-)

Margaux Salcedo said...

"I am learning that I can choose the pace at which I dance" - WINNER!!!

Anne said...

I' m really in awe with your writing and of course I'm a fan of your recipes :)

This dish looks easy and definitely worth trying!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Chocolate Covered Kitchen! Me too, I love those Chinese-style chicken dishes that are sticky, spicy, with a touch of sweetness...mmm!

Hi DW! Thank you for your nice words! :) I just say what I feel to be true for myself :)

Hi Chinkee! Hope you both like it! We are fans of the chicken+chili combo ourselves...I have another recipe in the archives with chicken and chili but this time with bagoong (another fave) :)

Thanks Margaux! It's the truth :)

Aw Anne! Thank you :) I am a fan of your gorgeous and whimsical cakes!!

Midge said...

Hi, Joey. I confess that I was one of those people who would keep her agenda brim-full of things to do. I also admit to the mad, bad practice of multitasking at work - and all it got me was a serious case of burnout that I am still recovering from to this day.

I think that learning how to bake bread has been helping me recover. It has taught me that the best things in life take time; they need a great deal of patience and that rushing things will only lead to disappointment and heartache.

Which reminds me that a chicken dish like yours would be perfect for dishing up on a bowlful of hot rice, to be simply savored, bite by spicy bite, on a cold, rainy day. :D

ChichaJo said...

Hi Midge! So sorry to hear about your burnout :( I hope you are doing better! I totally agree about bread zen, so peaceful, so relaxing. You just reminded me that I haven't baked bread in a while...should book a "bread session" soon :)

vincent said...


We bumped into your blog and we really liked it - great recipes YUM YUM.
We would like to add it to the

We would be delighted if you could add your blog to Petitchef so that our users can, as us,
enjoy your recipes.

Petitchef is a french based Cooking recipes Portal. Several hundred Blogs are already members
and benefit from their exposure on

To add your site to the Petitchef family you can use or just go to and click on "Add your site"

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

Zhenjiang vinegar is a sweet vinegar, just cook normal black vinegar with some rock sugar til it has a slightly thicker texture. Good luck !