Unearthing Sichuan’s True Bang Bang Chicken Essence
From the heart of Sichuan emerges the renowned Sichuan bang bang chicken, also recognized as 棒棒鸡 (bangbang ji). Throughout its storied history, this dish has seen various adaptations. This version, however, aspires to revive its original magnificence and authenticity.
Discovering the Real Essence of Bang Bang Chicken
While Bang Bang Chicken has multiple faces across the globe, its authentic version boasts a combination of shredded chicken, thin slices of cucumber, and a spicy dressing. Contrast this with its western counterpart, which often veers towards fried chicken drizzled with mayo – a taste sensation for sure, but a departure from its roots.
Let’s dive into the name. The term “Bang Bang”, or 棒 in Chinese, signifies an instrument used for pounding. But why pound the chicken? The reason lies in the culinary techniques. The texture achieved by this method ensures the chicken absorbs the sauce meticulously. Using a rolling pin can achieve this perfectly shredded texture. This dish doesn’t indulge in frying. Instead, it’s delicately poached to encapsulate the rich chicken aroma, setting a flawless stage for the spicy dressing.
If you’re pondering over chicken cuts, while we’ve chosen the breast for simplicity, the chicken thighs, known for their robust flavor, can be an even better choice. Tradition would see many restaurants utilizing the whole chicken for that succulent and tender bite.
Sichuan’s reputation for bold and intense flavors holds true here. Given the poaching method – a rarity in Sichuan dishes – the dish deserves a generous slathering of the harmonious sauce, which dances between sweet, tangy, spicy, and umami notes.
Serving as a delightful appetizer or an essential piece in a full Chinese meal, a twist for the ingenious: amplify the sauce, slice up some extra cucumbers, and drizzle it all over noodles for a delightful, lighter dish.
- 1/2 pound (225g) chicken breast
- 3 ginger slices
- 1 scallion, with an additional 2 tablespoons finely chopped
- ½ cucumber, seedless and julienned
- ½ cup retained chicken poaching broth
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 4 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1½ tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon chili oil (adjust based on preference)
- 2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorn
- ½ teaspoon salt
Steps to Savory Perfection:
1. Poaching Perfection: Combine 2 cups of water with ginger slices and scallion in a pot. Bring to a boil, and then introduce the chicken breast. Upon reaching a boil again, cover and reduce to the lowest heat. Cook for about 10-12 minutes, ensuring the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Transfer the chicken to an ice bath to preserve its juiciness. Retain the cooking broth for later.
2. Layering the Foundations: Begin by laying out the julienned cucumber on a plate. Using a rolling pin, gently pound the chicken until it achieves the desired shredded texture. Arrange this over the cucumber base.
3. Saucy Mix: Combine the retained chicken stock with soy sauce, black vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, chili oil, toasted sesame seeds, ground Sichuan peppercorn, salt, and finely chopped scallions.
4. Serving It Right: Drench the chicken and cucumber with the prepared sauce. A final mix before savoring is always a good idea!
With this, embrace the authentic flavors of Sichuan’s treasured Bang Bang Chicken and let every bite transport you to the heart of Chinese culinary brilliance.