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.
Table of Contents
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.
Thank you for your recipies!
Finally I can prepare authentic chinese dishes at home! This one is my all time favourite...
Cant wait to try more!
Greetings from Austria!
Thanks Dori. Happy cooking!
One of my favourite dishes! Can't wait to try this at home. Will keep you posted on the results. Thanks for a great site!
Happy cooking, Danny. Enjoy the journey with peppers. I look forward for the feedback.
Made this tonight and it was absolutely delicious ?. The spicy mouth numbing taste is one to remember.
Agree! This is our favorite dish in hot summer days with beers.
Delicious! We used crushed red peppers, all we had, and it was blazing hot. Very authentic to what I've had in Sichuan.
Thanks for the feedback, Chad! It is my top choice whenever happy or sad. One of the best ways of pulling yourself out of current position.
How much ginger is used - e.g. in Tablespoons?
There is no need to measure the ginger so exactly. Usually I use a thumb piece.
MUGHLAI KEEMA PARATHA
Delicious and easy to make.
Thank you for the recipe! Can you substitute chicken breast if you don't have chicken thighs?
Yes, Jessie. You can use chicken breast too.
Would it be possible to fry the chicken cubes using an air fryer rather than deep-frying in a wok?
Yes, Jia. Air-fryer can work for this one.
Thank you SO much for this recipe!
Chongqing Chicken is one of my top-5 favorite dishes on earth - I love the delicate crispiness of the chicken, the intricate complexity of the flavors, the blast of the red pepper mingled with the ginger and garlic, and the peculiar numbing sensation that can only come from Sichaun peppercorns. It is truly an addictive dish that I find myself craving often.
For the better part of four years I've been trying to tackle this dish - unsuccessfully, until I tried your genius recipe. The Chongqing chicken I made in my kitchen from your recipe was as good if not better than the Chongqing chicken I've had in restaurants in my home, Flushing, NY.
Thank you again, I can't wait to try more of your recipes - I think Youtiao will be my next venture, I'll let you know how it turns out!
Thanks for much for you lovely comment. I am so happy to be helpful. Not all of the dishes are easy to make at home. Some of them requires high fire and lots of preparation. I want to make them friendly to home cooking. Reading your comment makes me feel all of the efforts are paying off. Thanks again and happy cooking! I hope the Youtiao can work fine for you too.
I made the recipe exactly as written and it was delicious! The sichuan pepper is such a nice sensation and the soaking process for the peppers worked well. It was spicy but not uncomfortable and i ate the peppers too without problems.
Haha, the peppers are the best partner for wine. Try next time.