Chicken with Chilies and Szechuan Peppers

This is an easy, relatively dietetic dish, as Chinese chicken dishes go. The cornstarch and egg white marinade prevents much oil from being absorbed during frying.

1 whole chicken breast (ie: 2 halves)

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp toasted, crushed Szechuan peppercorns (see note below)

1 T cornstarch

1 egg white, beaten just enough to “break” it (don’t let it get “frothy”).

I T rice vinegar 

1 T sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 T Chinese soy sauce

2 T Chinese rice wine (Hsiao Sing) or dry sherry

4 – 6 dried red chilies, seeds removed

1 T minced fresh ginger

2 large scallions, chopped

1 cup peanut oil

2 tsp sesame oil

Skin and de-bone the chicken breasts. Slice them horizontally, and then into strips about 1/4″ x 1″ in size. Put them in a bowl with the Szechuan pepper, and toss to mix well. Sprinkle the cornstarch on while turning and mixing, then add the egg white and mix again to thoroughly coat all the pieces. Set the chicken aside until needed. This step can be done up to two hours beforehand. You don’t have to refrigerate it, but if you do, return it to room temperature before proceeding.

Combine the wine, vinegar, sugar and soy sauce in a bowl and place near the stove. Have the chilies, ginger and scallions in small bowls also near the stove.

Heat the peanut oil in a wok on high heat, until a piece of bread sizzles and browns instantly upon being tossed in (about 375 degrees). Slip the chicken all at once into the oil and turn quickly to separate all the pieces. Continue to turn until all the pieces are white. Remove the chicken using a slotted spoon or long-handled flat strainer, and pour off all but 2 T of the oil. Reduce heat to medium and add the dried chilies. Press them against the bottom of the wok, turning them until they darken, then turn the heat up to high and add the ginger and scallions. Stir-fry a minute or two, then add the chicken and stir-fry to mix thoroughly. Add the sauce, stir together for a minute, then pour it all into a heated serving bowl. Find the chilies and put them on top for decorative effect. Serve with white rice.

Note: Toast the peppercorns before crushing by stirring them in a dry, heavy  iron skillet for two or three minutes – until the spicy pepper aroma is apparent. Pour immediately into a bowl, then crush in the bowl or in a mortar,

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