This is an authentic recipe from our team in China, featured in our Sichuan Recipe Box. The ingredients labeled with a * below are hard-to-find ingredients that we’ve sourced from China and are all included in our recipe box which is available for shipping throughout the USA and China. For more information and to purchase online, click here.
This dish (kǒu shuǐ jī) literally translates to “saliva chicken” in English. As the Chinese word’s appetizing connotation is lost in translation, this dish is usually translated figuratively to “mouth-watering chicken” or “steamed chicken with chili sauce” in English.
Classified as a cold dish in Sichuan cuisine, this cold chicken dish is enriched with multiple seasoning condiments, tasting spicy, fresh, fragrant, and tender all at the same time.
The name of the dish actually came from a literary piece called “Tianbo Qu (賟波曲)” written by a renowned Chinese author, Guo Moruo, in the early 20th century. He wrote in the piece: “Till this day, I still can’t stop drooling for the dish every time it crosses my mind, the dish that I always ate when I was a child at my hometown in Sichuan, the boiled soft chicken meat infused with the fragrance of homemade red chili oil.” Written with unintentional care by Guo, the word “saliva” was surprisingly favored by people when describing this dish. As time went by, this Sichuan dish was referred “formally” by many restaurants as “Saliva chicken”, and was known today to be a common home cooking dish in Sichuan.
Before hot chiles were brought to China from the New World, peppercorns were used to give a mild heat to dishes. As the availability of blind, raw hellfire spice increased in China, it actually increased the usage of the numbing Sichuan peppercorns as a balancing element, which allows you to appreciate the flavor of the chili. Because of this, having a delicious chili full of actual flavor, color, and aroma, becomes paramount- and it’s what we’ve included in our boxes. The rise and prominence of chili and Sichuan peppercorns in the imagination and practice of Sichuan cuisine are relatively recent and also should be viewed hand-in-hand.
The spiciness from the Americas first comes overseas to Europe, then make their way overland into the heart of China via the Silk Road in the form of dried chilis. Sichuan peppercorns played perfectly with chili, balancing out the heat with its numbing qualities. Together this created the intense mala flavoring, one of the three Chinese spicy flavorings and perhaps the most famous.
With this box, we have included popular selections, the exact variants of chili and Sichuan peppercorn widely used in the Sichuan province. They aren’t dull or without aroma, like generic supermarket chili flakes. A teaspoon or half a teaspoon will go a long way for 1.2kg/2.5kg of chicken. You’ll learn to make mala flavors in its endless variations, experimenting with finishing oils and sautéed sauces, to see how chili as a flavor can be layered and nuanced in Sichuan cuisine.
Items marked with a * are included in our Sichuan Recipe Box.
For the Sichuan Chili Oil:
1 cup cooking oil (we always use canola oil, but soy or peanut oil also works well)
2 thin slices of ginger, about a 1cm knob
1 green onion
1/2 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorn*
1 whole star anise*
1 cinnamon stick*
1/3 cup chili powder/flakes*
1 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp five-spice powder*
For the Chicken:
3 chicken legs or around 2.5 pounds (1.2kg) of dark chicken meat
2 thumbs of ginger (sliced)
2 stalk of green onions
1 Tbsp cooking wine
For the Sauce:
6-8 Tbsp your prepared Sichuan chili oil
2 Tbsp Chinese vinegar*
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp cooking wine
1 tsp to Tbsp Sichuan peppercorn powder* (Adjust amount based on your spice level)
2 Tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp soy sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 Tbsp minced green onion
1/2 Tbsp minced coriander
2 tsp of skinless peanuts, toasted
White sesame seeds
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