Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken with Basil Recipe

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What is the hottest gourmet in the night markets of Taiwan? The winner goes to Popcorn Chicken with Basil based on EZTravel’s online survey.

So who is the inventor of the Popcorn Chicken with Basil? According to Apple Daily, it was created by Chen Tingzhi. He started selling the Popcorn Chicken in Ximending district of Taipei in 1975. He fried bite-sized boneless chicken until golden brown, and he paired it with fried basil leaves. As a final touch, he sprinkled a special seasoning on top. Because of its popularity, vendors started to copy this new way to cook chicken.

Now let us travel to 2000, I was a freshman in high school. My Taiwanese friend bought a bag of Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken with Basil in a local milk tea shop. She asked me if I want to have a bite. ”Sure, why not,” I answered. I popped one into my mouth. I instantly realized that this is a game changer. It is like American popcorn chicken but with more depth and flavors.

Flash forward to 2013, I traveled to Taipei for the filming of my food program, CiCi’s Food Paradise. Walking down the Shilin night market, there were just so many food stores and food carts that I felt like my attention span couldn’t even digest everything.

”I have to catch up.” I thought to myself. So I literary tried everything. I had milk tea on my right hand and a dozen bags of little snack items on my left side. And of course, one of the most memorable snacks I had that day was still the Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken with Basil.

The Popcorn Chicken was fascinating. It was so crispy that I hear my biting sound. There were many dimensions of flavors — it was salty, garlicky, and with a fragrant of basil. It was so memorable that the tastes still linger on my taste buds.

Serving: 2 people
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

2 pieces of chicken thighs, boneless
1 cup of thick sweet potato starch
2 cups of oil
1 cup of basil

1/2 teaspoon of white pepper
1/2 teaspoon of five spice powder
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of rice wine
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of minced ginger
1 egg

1 teaspoon of five spice powder
1 teaspoon of white pepper
1 teaspoon of salt

First, slice 2 boneless chicken thighs into bite-size pieces.

Marinade the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of five-spice powder, a pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of rice wine, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of minced ginger, 1 egg. Mix well. Let it sit for 15 minutes.

Prepare 1 cup of thick sweet potato starch. Dip chicken pieces in the sweet potato starch. Put aside and let it sit for about 5 minutes.

Dip the chicken pieces in the sweet potato starch for 1 more round. Wait for 5 minutes.

To make the seasoning, add 1 teaspoon of five-spice powder, 1 teaspoon of white pepper, 1 teaspoon of salt.

In a pan, heat about 2 cups of oil or 1 inch deep to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. You could also test the oil with your chopsticks. If you see lots of bubbles around it then you know it’s ready. Add the chicken pieces and cook until golden brown for about 3 minutes. Take them out and put aside.

Strain the oil and remove any crumb.

Heat the oil again. Carefully add 1 cup of basil and cook for 30 seconds. Be very careful because the oil would splash everywhere. We fry the basil before frying the chicken again because then the fried chicken would also contain the aroma of basil after frying it for the second time. Take them out and drain.

Heat the oil to about 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the chicken pieces back and cook until crispy for about 1 minute. The double frying method makes the chicken crispier and less oily than the regular fried chicken. Take them out and drain.

Sprinkle the seasoning on top. Serve!

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