Learn how to make crispy, hot, and numbing Chongqing-style dry-fried mala chicken with dried chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorn. It has a very distinctive local name - Laziji, meaning hot pepper chicken. It is acceptable hot and full of strong aroma bought by the peppers and aromatics. One of the best choices for a beer party.
Where it comes from
Chongqing Mala Chicken usually refers to Chongqing chicken with chili peppers and a spicy taste) and Sichuan peppercorns (numb feeling ). In Chinese, we call the dish Laziji, which mainly means dried chili pepper chicken. Some restaurants may call it Chongqing Chicken since it is thought to be quite popular in the Geleshan (歌乐山) area in the city of Chongqing. Although this one is less famous outside of Sichuan, it is considered even better than Kung Pao chicken by many Szechuan people.
Rule No.1 - Don't eat the peppers
There is a lovely description of the dish saying that you need to find chicken among chili peppers, which shows people’s love toward those savory chicken cubes and also how many chili peppers will be used in this dish. That’s 100% true in restaurant versions. For homemade mala chicken, I adjust the number of chili peppers so that we do not need to work so hard to find the meat. It gets another lovely name in my family called “mangrove forest”. In general, this dish is a dry fried dish. Dry-frying is a unique cooking method from Sichuan cuisine. Higher oil temperature helps to remove the extra water content inside the chicken, which further allows the mala flavor to permeate better. This is a very popular Sichuan-style cooking method and there are a group of dishes that share the same theory including dry-fried beef shreds and dry-fried green beans with minced pork.
How to prepare the chicken
We usually use chicken thighs for this dish because of the higher muscle content. Chicken breast is not recommended. In China, we usually cut the whole chicken into small chunks and cook it with bones. So it is ok to cut the thighs into small bites directly. But it is also quite caring to remove the bones for your guest.
How to remove the bones of a chicken thigh:
- Prepare a kitchen scissor, find the loose side of the chicken thigh, and cut it apart.
- Then cut all the other connections on the bottom of the chicken thigh.
- Hold the thigh with one hand and then push all the meat down. And then use scissors to cut the left meat on the bone.
Some tips for controlling the spicy taste
- Cut only part of the dried peppers into sections and keep the remaining as whole ones. Or you can use milder peppers directly. Remove the seeds after cutting the dried peppers apart
- Soak the peppers with water and then fry them over a slow fire for a short time can greatly reduce the natural spiciness, improve the aroma, and of course avoid burning them in the following steps.
Can I use less chili pepper?
You may wonder whether you can reduce the number of chili peppers when seeing this dish from the picture. Absolutely yes! I am reproducing the authentic Chongqing-style mala chicken, so a large number of peppers are needed. You can reduce the hot peppers and use only 15 to 20 dried peppers. Reducing the number of chili peppers will not influence the taste very much, but it can save lots of money if dried peppers are quite expensive. So sounds like a good idea definitely. But as a good blogger, I am trying to introduce the authentic version and this is the real version.
Chicken thighs - you can also use a whole chicken, and cut it into small bites.
Cooking oil for shallow frying- I love to use the shallow frying method instead of pan-frying in home cooking because it saves more oil. But you need to cook the meat by batches.
Dried chili peppers - you can use your familiar type. Just make sure this type is aromatic enough.
Sichuan peppercorns - whole Sichuan peppercorns are used to create this lovely "ma" numbing feeling for your tongue.
Garlic, ginger, and scallion - this three are always popular in Sichuan dishes.
Sugar and salt - the foundation of a savory dish.
Rice wine - for marinating the chicken
White pepper powder - for marinating the chicken
Sesame seeds - enhance the flavor by providing extra aroma.
Light soy sauce - for marinating the chicken
Cornstarch- not for coating, only for tenderizing the chicken.
Cut the dried chili peppers and then soak the peppers in water for 15 minutes. We are doing this so we can fry the peppers later and prevent burning the peppers. This is a very traditional method used and I have imported this to my chili oil- using the power of water.
Remove the bone of the chicken thighs and then cut them into small cubes. In a large bowl, marinade the chicken cubes with all the marinating sauce. Mix well and set aside for around 10 minutes.
Heat up oil in a wok or pan for deep-frying. Heat until really hot (you can see bubbles when you put a chopstick in). Add the chicken cubes in and fry until golden brown. Transfer out. I recommend using a pan and frying the chicken in batches. On one side, it uses less oil and on the other side, the chicken is widely touched with the bottom of the pan, which can speed up the process greatly. After adding the chicken cubes, let it stay for a short time (possibly about 40 seconds to 1 minute) until one side is browned, and then slightly stir the chicken and fry the other side.
Get a clean wok and add only ½ tablespoon of oil and then fry the peppers for 1-2 minutes over the slowest fire until most of them become dark red. Add Sichuan peppercorn and continue frying for another 1 minute over the slowest fire.
Push the spices to one side and add ½ tablespoon of oil to the wok and fry ginger, scallion white, and garlic until aromatic.
Return the chicken cubes, and add roasted white sesame seeds, sugar, salt, and scallion green sections. Mix well and serve immediately.
What to serve with
When seeing this, you might already know that the best thing to match is beer. But the following are some of the dishes that may help to balance the flavors for your meal.
Smashed cucumber salad- the light version can make a good balance for the flavor.
Mango pudding - a sweet dessert that can comfort your tongue.
Wood ear mushroom salad - is another great dish that can match well with beer.
Amazing Chinese potato salad - my favorite way of making potatoes.
- 4 chicken thighs
- cook oil for frying
- 1.5 cup chili peppers
- 1.5 tbsp. Sichuan peppercorn
- 1 root ginger ,sliced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 scallions ,white part and green part separated andcut into small sections
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tbsp. sesame seeds ,or as needed
- pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. rice wine
- ¼ tsp. white pepper powder
- 2 tsp. cornstarch ,optional
- small pinch of salt
- Cut the dried chili peppers, discard the seeds and then soak the peppers in water for 15 minutes. We are doing this so we can fry the peppers later and prevent burn the peppers.
- Remove the bone of the chicken thighs and then cut into small cubes. In a large bowl, marinade the chicken cubes with all the marinating sauce. Mix well and set aside for around 10 minutes.
- Heat up oil in wok or pan for deep-frying. Heat until really hot (you can see bubbles when you put a chopstick in). Add the chicken cubes in and fry until golden brown. Transfer out. I recommend using a pan and fry the chicken by batches. On one side, it uses less oil and on the other side, the chicken is widely touched with the bottom of the pan, which can speed up the process greatly. After add the chicken cubes, let it stay for a short time (possible about 40 seconds to 1 minute) until one side is browed and then slightly stir the chicken and fry the other side.
- Get a clean wok and add only ½ tablespoon of oil and then fry the peppers for 1-2 minutes over slowest fire until most of them becomes dark red. Add Sichuan peppercorn in and continue frying for another 1 minute over slowest fire.
- Push the spices to one side and add ½ tablespoon of oil in wok and fry ginger, scallion white and garlic until aromatic.
- Return the chicken cubes, add roasted white sesame seeds, sugar, salt and scallion green sections. Mix well and serve immediately.
This recipe was really fun to make. I may have used the wrong chili peppers, because my dish was extremely spicy. Next time, I will greatly reduce the amount of peppers I used.. but other than that, the underlying flavor is fantastic. Thank you for the recipe!
Thank you Corinne. Next time, you can use less hot peppers.
Hi Elaine! I just made this recipe and it was fantastic! A question: I thought the peppercorns were too strong of a flavor. I am wondering if I just have inferior peppercorns? I got them at a Korean market nearby and they were very inexpensive. I saw some on Amazon that cost a lot more. I haven’t cooked with them much so I’m not sure...
Good quality Sichuan peppercorn has brighter color and a strong aromatic flavor. You need to judge the flavor to see whether it is good to eat.
Hi, can you specify what kind of rice wine you use? Thank you
This Hua Diao cooking wine from Shaoxing.
Thanks! I made this last weekend and even though I messed up it still tasted great!
Haha, nice to know it worked out!!
Hungry for More
Elaine, you are an awesome good cook. Please put all of these recipes in a cookbook, and I will gladly buy it to help support your generous effort here. I know you have a hotpot ebook, but I would like a real, hard copy book with all of your recipes. You have changed my life for the better, I haven't eaten so well since I lived near Chinatown, in San Francisco. Honestly, your food is better than many restaurants there.
Hi, thanks so much for such a wonderful and encouraging comment. I am so happy to know that all the tests in kitchen and editing on computer are helpful. I will seek a chance to publish a book with some of my best recipes.
Way way way too much chillies and Szechuan peppercorns. Otherwise I liked the flavors. Next time I’ll double the chicken and halve the heat. Thank you for the recipe.
It is a local popular method with lots of chilis. Yes, you can reduce the amount of chili peppers. I am trying to present real local Chinese dishes.
Hi, I would like to ask if I can republish this recipe somewhere 🙂 Could you get in touch with me please? Thanks!!
Sara, I send you an Email.
David C Sleigh
Does the recipe call for frying the chicken cubes twice?
" After add the chicken cubes, let it stay for a short time (possible about 40 seconds to 1 minute) until one side is
browed and then slightly stir the chicken and fry the other side."
Not twice but two sides.