If you haven’t already, prepare to fall in love with Action Bronson’s singularly wonderful food prose and recipes. His new book, F*ck, That’s Delicious, is everything you’ve ever wanted from the food-obsessed rapper, chef and TV host (and much more). Take a peek into the mind behind the munchies with this explosive chicken.
This is the chicken of all fucking chickens.
I made this on The Rachael Ray Show. Some places call it chicken with pepper, some Chongqing Chicken. I call it Explosive Chicken, just like Z & Y.* Don’t marinate this chicken longer than fifteen minutes—if you leave it too long, it’s going to be overpowering and it’s going to taste like that Japanese Sakura teriyaki chicken from the mall. Which I love, don’t get me wrong, but for this you want a totally different taste.
*Last time we went to Z & Y we waited almost an hour for takeout, so I wandered off down to the corner to Quickly, which is a bubble tea spot with a bunch of fried things on the menu. I decided to order an almond milk tea, the popcorn chicken, Chinese corn dogs, and fried sweet bananas in spring rolls, and let me tell you something, it was as satisfying as any meal I’ve had ever, probably. The popcorn chicken was done so perfectly— there were pieces of all types of white and dark meat, then you sprinkle a hot chile powder on it. They have a bag for it, and then you close it and shake. Some young Asian dude walked in and said, “Yo, I can’t believe you’re at the Quickly, man. That’s why you’re my hero.”
Marinade and Chicken
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 cup Szechuan peppercorns, divided use
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
Dredge and Fry
- 1 1/2 cups rice flour
- 1 1/2 cups cornstarch
- 2 to 3 quarts canola oil
- 3 cups cold seltzer water
- 2 green onions, white and green parts, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 cup dried Szechuan chilies
- 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, tough stems removed, roughly chopped
- white rice, as a side
For the chicken
Make the marinade: Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar in a large bowl and whisk to dissolve the sugar.
Cut the chicken thighs into large chunks — nice chopstick-size pieces, about six per thigh — place them in the marinade, and leave for 15 minutes but no longer. A short dunk softens the chicken just enough and the flavor won’t be overpowering.
Make the spice mixture: Use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to grind all but 2 tablespoons of the peppercorns. Stir together the ground peppercorns, the sugar, and salt and set it aside.
Fill a Dutch oven about halfway up the sides with oil and heat it over medium-high heat to 325°F.
In a large bowl, whisk together the rice flour and cornstarch for the dredge, then whisk in the seltzer. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
Drain the chicken from the marinade. Working with a few pieces at a time, dunk the chicken into the dredge, shake off the excess, and fry until lightly browned, crispy, and cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes. As the pieces are done, remove them with a slotted spoon and set them on the prepared baking sheet, then sprinkle them on all sides with a little spice mixture. We could stop here and it would still taste good, but we’re not going to stop here.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a large skillet or wok and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil and pan are very hot, add the green onions, the reserved whole peppercorns, the chiles, and a sprinkle of spice mixture. Toss for a second or two until the chiles smell fragrant, then add the chicken pieces. Cook, tossing often, until the chicken is heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.
Serve topped with the cilantro and a side of hot white rice.