Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sichuan Bang Bang Chicken

I don’t know if I drew the short straw in my family early on in my life, but I became the person that ended up with the chicken breast. People generally prefer to eat the chicken thigh as it has more flavour and remains succulent while it cooks, and in my family that’s definitely the case. I found that when there was a whole chicken on the table, everyone would fight over the other parts of the chicken while I could reach for the breast without a struggle. No one wanted the chicken breast so I would eat it and I gained a reputation for it. Often my family would automatically pile up the chicken breast into my bowl as if they were doing me a favour whenever we had chicken.

I didn’t mind this as I was growing up because I didn’t really know better, chicken was chicken to me. But now that I’m older and I’ve learnt how to cook, I have developed an appreciation for and prefer the chicken thigh more. My family still thinks that I love chicken breast though and I am fine with that, and happy to take up the breast for the team when we eat chicken together. I feel like it’s my responsibility to because this is how it has been all my life. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that I am the oldest of three children in my family and throughout my life I’ve learnt to look after everyone else first, the art of compromise and I have sacrificed a lot of things for my younger brother and sister (like my freedom growing up in a strict Asian household so that they could have theirs, as my parents became less strict on my younger siblings). My dad is worse off though because he gets the arse, neck and scraps of meat on the boney bits which no one else can be bothered with, my mum gets the wings because she enjoys and deserves them, my younger brother gets the drumsticks (treasured Asian son) and my younger sister gets the thighs (spoilt youngest child).

I eat most of the chicken breast in my family and end up consuming more chicken in total than anyone else. I would console myself by saying that the breast is less fatty than the thigh so I can eat more chicken and not feel guilty about it. Well this is the excuse that I would try to use on my younger sister to get her to eat some chicken breast with me but she declines. She obviously knows what’s good for her.

So who else as a result of certain circumstances ended up being known for eating a particular type of food in their family? Did you end up with the chicken breast too?

I was inspired to try cooking Bang Bang Chicken after reading about it in #10 of Feast magazine. Bang Bang Chicken is a street vendor's dish from the Sichuan region of China. The name of the dish is derived from the fact that you pound the chicken *bang* *bang* to loosen the fibres of the chicken, making it easier to tear into shreds. As this was a Sichuan dish I consulted my Sichuan cooking bible – Fuchsia Dunlop’s Sichuan Cookery and ended up cooking a dish that adapted both these recipes and I served it with rice vermicelli noodles. Most recipes for Bang Bang Chicken specify the use of the chicken breast. So if you are not particularly fond of chicken breast, this is a good way to enjoy it as the chicken is has been tenderized by all the banging and has a flavoursome chilli sesame sauce drizzled over the top. 

This is a Sichuan dish, so it needs to be hot, do not skim back on the chilli oil and Sichuan peppercorns. What I love about this dish is the hot and numbing sensation you get as you eat it, which is contrasted with the different textures of the cool vegetables and rice vermicelli. 

While the recipe called for the chicken to just be cooked in water, I decided to cook the chicken in chicken stock with some Shaoxing wine, coriander, spring onions, black peppercorns and ginger to give it more flavour. Then I used the leftover stock to make a simple soup. When you order something like Hanianese Chicken Rice at a restaurant it is generally accompanied with a bowl of soup. It’s nothing fancy but a simple clear chicken broth with chopped spring onion floating on top. To me, it’s an essential part of the meal, it feels comforting to drink and it helps to wash the meal down.

Sichuan Bang Bang Chicken

(adapted from #10 Feast magazine and Sichuan Cookery by Fuchsia Dunlop)

•    300-400g rice vermicelli
•    500-600g chicken breast (1 large or 2 small fillets)
•    3-4 cups of chicken stock
•    2 slices ginger
•    2 coriander root/stems
•    2-3 spring onions, use bottom third only cut into 3-4cm lengths
•    3 black peppercorns
•    2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
•    1 lebanese cucumber
•    1 carrot, cut into thin julienne
•    ½ iceberg lettuce
•    2 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal (keep in a bowl of water to refresh)
•    2-3 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
Chilli Sesame Sauce
•    1 tablespoon white sugar
•    1 tablespoon light soy sauce
•    1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar (Chinkiang)
•    salt to taste
•    3 tablespoons sesame paste or tahini
•    1 tablespoon sesame oil
•    2 tablespoons chilli oil with chilli flakes
•    ½ - 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns

 (Chilli Oil)


Place chicken in a medium sized saucepan. Add ginger, coriander root/stems, spring onions, black peppercorns, Shaoxing wine and enough stock to cover. Bring to boil and simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and stand for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Strain the chicken and let cool (reserve the stock). Place the chicken on a board and use a rolling pin to hit the chicken a few times *bang* *bang* to loosen the fibres, then shred the chicken with your fingers.

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and discard the seeds. Slice into thin strips, then place in a colander, sprinkle the pieces lightly with salt and let stand for at least 30 minutes. Drain and gently squeeze out the excess moisture. Set aside.
Cook rice vermicelli according to packet instructions. Set aside to cool.

To make the chilli sesame sauce, toast the Sichuan peppercorns in a frying pan over low heat until fragrant, take care not to let them burn. Using a mortar and pestle, grind to a powder. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, light soy sauce and black vinegar until the sugar dissolves. Gradually stir in the sesame paste to make a smooth sauce. Add in the chilli oil, sesame oil and Sichuan pepper, and mix well.

 (Chilli Sesame Sauce)

To serve – place the vermicelli on a plate/bowl and add on lettuce, carrot, cucumber and spring onions. Top with shredded chicken and drizzle on the chilli sesame sauce. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

 (Rice vermicelli and vegetables)
(Shredded Chicken)

To make a light chicken broth – strain the stock that the chicken was cooked in into a saucepan and bring to boil. Season the chicken stock to taste with a little light soy sauce, fish sauce, salt and white pepper. Spoon the soup into bowls and garnish with chopped spring onion.

Related posts (other chicken recipes you might like): 


  1. My family have the same attitude about chicken thigh vs breast. Whereas caucasian Australians really seem to like the breast. I don't mind either and I find some suit dishes better than the other. This looks really good! :D

  2. yum... it looks so good ai ling....
    *thumbs up*!

  3. This looks amazing - I love that you've mentioned chicken rice. I grew up on it (it's my desert island dish!)

    What's the difference between a normal cucumber and a Lebanese one?

    1. Thanks Becs :) I could eat Hanianese Chicken Rice everyday on a desert island too!
      A Lebanese cucumber is smaller than a normal one, and has a smooth skin and more mild taste.

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