Kung Pao & Beyond – Fried Chicken Heaven! – Almost everyone likes fried chicken, unless, of course, you’re vegan or vegetarian! Even if you’re trying to be good and lose weight, there are those occasions when a really delicious fried chicken dish just fits the bill perfectly (I know, I’ve been there too!). I’ve recently encountered a magnificent homage to fried chicken, written by Susan Jung, a food columnist for Vogue Hong Kong.
Kung Pao & Beyond: Fried Chicken Recipes from East and Southeast Asiahas just been published by Hardie Grant at £20 for a lovely hardback. Jung was also the food and wine editor for the South China Morning Post for almost 25 years and during this time, her readers constantly requested more fried chicken recipes. Her own love of fried chicken knows no bounds – she is obsessed and has travelled the world trying and testing every fried chicken recipe you could wish for. The recipes in this book take this humble fast food to a whole new level, and she’s also incorporated amazing accompaniments. An introduction to the plethora of Asian ingredients, cooking equipment and techniques is at the forefront of the book, but fear not, you don’t need to stock up too much to experiment and enjoy her recipes!
Whether it’s Korean Fire Chicken, Vietnamese Butter Wings, or Japanese Karaage, nothing surpasses the unique twists and flavours that cooks in East and Southeast Asia have brought to fried chicken. Here is a clever and tasty recipe to whet your appetite:
Chicken Poppers with Instant Noodle Coating – serves 4-6 as a snack.
“I came up with the idea for this dish after listening to two friends talk about instant noodles – a subject that is dear to my stomach. Peter reminisced about eating instant noodles, sprinkled with the seasoning mix, straight out of the packet, without cooking them first. Carol said that she hadn’t ever tasted one of my favourite instant noodles, Nongshim Shin Ramyun. I wondered how instant noodles would work as a coating for fried chicken, and fortunately had a packet of Nongshim Shin Ramyun in my cupboard. (An important tip if you want to buy these: seek out the ones made in South Korea, because they taste so much better than the ones made elsewhere) It was one of the easiest fried chicken dishes I’ve made, and the noodles fried up spicy and crunchy. You can vary the flavour by using other types of instant noodles, but make sure the seasoning packet is a dry mix, not a paste. Also, just the seasoning powder, not any oil or dehydrated vegetables that may come in the packet. This fried chicken goes very well with soju (Korean distilled alcoholic beverage) or beer.”
450g (1 lb) boneless chicken thighs
Coarse salt crystals, as necessary
2-4 packets of instant noodles, depending on size
About 60g (2 oz) potato, sweet potato, or tapioca flour
750ml (3 ¼ cups) cooking oil
Butterfly the chicken thighs, cut them into 2.5cm (1 in) chunks and put them in a bowl.
Weigh the chicken, then multiply the amount by 0.005 – this is the amount of salt you need.
Sprinkle the salt over the chicken, mix well, then set aside for at least 10 minutes.
Put the noodles with the contents of the dry seasoning pack in a food processor.
Process until the noodles are about the size of rice grains.
Put the potato, sweet potato, or tapioca flour in a shallow dish.
Whisk the eggs in another shallow dish and put the instant noodles in a third dish.
Dredge the chicken thighs in the flour and shake off the excess, then dip them in the egg.
Dredge in the instant noodles, pressing firmly so they adhere.
Lay the chicken on a cooking rack placed over a tray.
Pour the cooking oil into a pan, preferably a medium wok, and set over medium heat.
Fry the chicken in two batches at 160⁰C (320⁰F).
Fry the pieces for 4 minutes, then put them on the rack placed over the tray – there’s no need to fry them again.
Kung Pao Chicken
Kung Pao Chicken is a dish you can find on the menus of Chinese restaurants everywhere (I think) in the world. But what you are served isn’t necessarily the version you are familiar with. Some versions have a thick, gloopy sauce, others are very sweet, while some have lots of vegetables that don’t belong in this dish. This version is somewhat austere compared to others, and I’ve been told that it tastes like the type you might be served in Beijing. Most recipes call for leeks, but they shouldn’t be the very fat Welsh leeks. Buy leeks that are about 1.5cm (5/8in) in diameter – I like the ones from Japan. If you can’t find those, buy the fattest spring onions (scallions) in the market.
20g (3⁄4oz) dried Tianjin chillies (use as necessary)
240g (81⁄2oz) thin leeks or fat spring onions (scallions)
6–8 peeled garlic cloves 20ml (4 tsp) soy sauce
(all-purpose Kikkoman or your favourite brand)
10g (2 tsp) granulated sugar
120ml (1⁄2 cup) Chinese brown rice vinegar 10ml (2 tsp) sesame oil
1 tsp cornflour (cornstarch)
4–6 thin slices of peeled ginger
4 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
180g (61⁄4oz) dry-roasted peanuts
For seasoning and frying the chicken
800g (1lb 12oz) boneless chicken breast with coarse salt flakes, as necessary
Cut the chicken breasts into 1cm (1⁄2in) dice and put the pieces in a bowl. Weigh the chicken, then multiply the amount by 0.01 – this is the amount of salt you need. Sprinkle the salt over the chicken, then mix well. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Add the soy sauce, rice wine, sugar and white pepper to the chicken and mix. Stir in the cornflour and sesame oil, then leave to marinate at room temperature for about 1 hour, mixing often.
Briefly rinse the Tianjin chillies, then pat them dry. Tear each one into 2–3 pieces (depending on size), shaking out and discarding the seeds as you go. Weigh out 10g (1/3oz) of the chilli pieces. Slice the leeks (or spring onions) into 1cm (1⁄2in) pieces. Halve the garlic cloves. Mix the soy sauce with the sugar, rice vinegar, sesame oil and cornflour. Set aside.
Pour the cooking oil into a large wok set over medium heat. Stir the chicken mixture to redistribute the cornflour (which sinks to the bottom), then fry it in six or seven batches at 160°C (320°F). As soon as you put the chicken in the oil, stir with chopsticks to separate the pieces, and cook each batch for 30 seconds. Use a slotted ladle to scoop the chicken out of the wok and drain it on a cooling rack placed over a tray.
Pour off all but 20ml (4 teaspoons) of the oil, then place the wok over low heat. Add the Tianjin chilli pieces and stir constantly, gently heating them until the colour brightens. Do not let the colour get too dark or they will taste acrid. Remove the chillies from the wok and set aside.
Place the wok over a medium–low heat and add the garlic, ginger, and Sichuan peppercorns. Stir constantly until the peppercorns are toasted. Add the chillies, leeks (or spring onions) and chicken to the wok. Quickly stir the soy sauce/ vinegar mixture to redistribute the cornflour and pour it over the ingredients. Increase the heat to medium–high and stir almost constantly for about 1 minute until the chicken is lightly coated with the sauce. Stir in the peanuts, then transfer to a plate and serve immediately.
It’s foodies festival time again soon! and I’ve got a discount for you
(27th – 29th May 2023 Bank Holiday Weekend)
Put the dates in your diary – one of my favourite festivals – the Foodies Festival – returns at the end of this month, perfectly timed for the late May bank holiday weekend.
Known as ‘Gastro-Glastonbury’, the festival takes place at Syon Park. It features cooking demonstrations by top chefs from TV’s MasterChef, Great British Bake Off and Great British Menu, plus Michelin-starred chefs. These include Great British Bake Off 2022 winner, Syabira Yusoff, Young MasterChef 2023 champion, Keziah Dior, MasterChef: The Professionals champion, Steven Edwards, MasterChef champion, Dhruv Baker, Great British Bake Off finalist, Jurgen Krauss, and many more.
The musical feast has chart-topping Sophie Ellis-Bextor, platinum-selling festival favourites Scouting For Girls, singer and TV star, Fleur East, and Scottish singer-songwriter, Callum Beattie.
There’s a jam-packed schedule in the Chef’s Theatre; Cake & Bake Theatre; the Cookbook Shop; The Kids Cookery School and Masterclasses in the Drinks Theatre. You can browse in the Shopping Village, meet local producers in the Artisan Market and taste exotic and new dishes. And there’ll be a fairground, children’s activities, and family-friendly areas.
For the fifth year running, the festival supports Musicians Against Homelessness (MAH) raising money for the UK-wide homelessness charity Crisis. Day tickets from £3 (child) and £19 (adult) Weekend tickets from £38 (3-day)
DISCOUNT CODE FOR YOU! On sale now at www.foodiesfestival.com but I’ve a special 30% discount for you! Use code FOODIES30