May 12, 2021

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Best Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken Recipe

Lucy Schaeffer

I’ve never been to Taiwan, but I’ve always loved Taiwanese popcorn chicken. Usually a street food in its native country, you often find this treat in bubble tea shops here in the U.S. as one of the classic savory menu offerings to go along with your sweet beverage of choice. 

I love in particular the spice mix here: five-spice heightened with some white pepper, Szechuan peppercorn, onion powder, and mildly spicy gochugaru. A touch of brown sugar rounds out the harshness of the vinegar and merges both flavors into tenderizing greatness. (The MSG is optional, but you know it just won’t punch quite the same way without it. What are you afraid of?)

For the most tender results, I recommend using dark meat chicken, but you can also use white meat, as well as vegetarian options like firm tofu or mushrooms. I haven’t tried these alternatives, so if you do, please be sure to leave us a note down below in the comments section to let us know how it came out!

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Yields:

4


servings

Prep Time:

0

hours

20

mins

Total Time:

1

hour

30

mins

For the marinade

1/2
tsp.

ground white pepper

1/2
tsp.

freshly ground black pepper

1/4
tsp.

ground Szechuan peppercorn 

1
tbsp.

packed brown sugar

2
tbsp.

low-sodium soy sauce

2
tsp.

rice wine vinegar 

1
tsp.

toasted sesame oil

1
lb.

boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1″ pieces

For the fry

2
tsp.

five spice powder, divided 

1/4
tsp.

ground white pepper 

1/2
tsp.

freshly ground black pepper

3/4
tsp.

finely ground gochugaru (optional) 

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  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together all marinade ingredients except for the chicken until smooth. Add chicken and toss to coat. Let sit for 30 minutes.
  2. In a medium pot over medium-high heat, heat 1” of peanut oil to 325°. In a large bowl, mix together cornstarch, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon five spice powder. In a small bowl, combine remaining 1 teaspoon five spice powder, white pepper, black pepper, and gochugaru (if using).
  3. Add drained marinated chicken to cornstarch mixture and toss to coat evenly and completely. In 3 to 4 batches, add coated chicken to heated oil and fry until golden, being sure not to overcrowd the pot, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove fried chicken from oil and place into a large mixing bowl lined with a paper towel. 
  4. Increase frying oil to 375°. In 2 to 3 batches, re-fry chicken until deeply golden and seriously crispy, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer each batch to the bowl as it’s done, and sprinkle with five spice powder mixture, salt, and MSG (if using) while hot. Repeat with remaining chicken.
  5. Remove paper towel from bowl, add in all remaining five spice powder, and toss until chicken is evenly coated.
  6. Add basil leaves to frying oil and fry until translucent, 20 to 30 seconds. Remove from oil and place on top of fried chicken.

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