What’s for Dinner? Chicken with Intoxicating Sichuan Peppercorn Sauce
Although my family is through-and-through Beijingers, owning another property in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, has made us feel great affinity towards the city.
Geographically, Chengdu is surrounded by mountains, making for a peculiar “bowl-shaped” landscape notorious for trapping clouds. I’ve spent many a days wandering around overcast, and exceedingly foggy Chengdu in a daze, with only the signature numbing spiciness of world-renowned Sichuanese cuisine to sweep me from my melancholy.
Many cuisines are known for their spiciness, but only Sichuan cuisine has the added sensation of numbness. It’s that addictive tingling left on the lips that characterises the Sichuanese peppercorn. I recently smuggled a pack of these fragrant peppercorns back to Hong Kong, and have been sparking up meals with this unique brand of Sichuan authenticity.
In this chicken dish, I use crushed peppercorns to add that extra bit of je n’ai sais quoi.
*Note: If you live in Hong Kong, you can find Sichuan peppercorns in select dry goods shops in Sheung Wan
What you’ll need (serves 4):
- 4 chicken legs
- 1/2 tbls Sichuan peppercorn
- 3 tbls light soy sauce
- 2 tbls sweet soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbls chopped green scallion (for garnish)
In a pot, bring the chicken legs to a boil and let them simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until they are fully cooked.
While the chicken is cooking, toast the red Sichuan peppercorn over medium heat in a dry pan (without adding any oil). Turn the peppercorns around in the pan frequently, and don’t walk away from the pan as they burn very easily. The toasting process draws out the natural fragrant oils of the peppercorns.
The toasting process should take a matter of minutes. You’ll know when it’s done when you start smelling the smokey fragrance emitting from the peppercorns, and when the kernels easily crumble when pressed.
Here’s the fun part – crushing these babies to a fine powder. The perfume emitting from this process is simply intoxicating.
Mix together the soy sauces, sesame oil, and sprinkle in the crushed peppercorn powder. A word of caution – taste the powder first to decide how much you can withstand.
Once the chicken have fully cooked, let them cool down slightly before shredding each piece to bite-sized pieces. (I like to remove the skin and all fats at this point)
Drizzle with the bold sauce and garnish with chopped scallions. Serve alongside rice, in a sandwich, or any which way you so desire.
Viola! Bon Appetit!