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Zhanyi chili chicken

The science of chili has shown us that eating very spicy food causes people to sweat, a body reaction that helps us cool down. It is the same reaction as the body sweating during exercise to keep cool. Spicy food has been shown to increase metabolism and thereby cool the body down by sweating. This is the dish that will leave you in a puddle of sweat and your tongue and lips on fire. As a bonus this is super simple dish to make.

This dish is traditionally from Yunnan, but very similar but distinct to the Sichuan Chongqing chicken. This dish uses spicy fresh Thai chilies and lots of garlic and that perfect hint of "umami" from the oyster sauce. The crisp chicken is infused with heat and spice, it explodes on your palate and the heat lingers. This is one addictive dish for those who crave spice. Keep a glass of beer or cool beverage handy to calm your palate from the spices.

This is a cookbook that specializes in the Yunnan Provence in China, and one of the 33 very distinct Chinese cuisines. The book is a masterclass in the ingredients, the cooking techniques and the herbs and spices of the region. It is packed full of traditional recipes, I have bookmarked quite a few recipes for the near future.


6 tablespoons oil

1 lb chicken breast or tenderloin, cut into very thin strips

4 tablespoons oil

1/3 cup garlic, finely minced

10-20 Thai chilies, finely minced

2 teaspoon oyster sauce

3-4 teaspoons chili sauce, either lajiao jiang chili sauce, or sambal oelek chili sauce

Salt, to taste

2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns, lightly crushed

Heat the oil in a wide wok till simmering hot. The oil needs to be very hot so the chicken fries and does not start to steam. Add the chicken and fry on very high heat till it is cooked and the chicken is browned, about 5 minutes. The oils must be bubbling with the chicken in order to fry the pieces.Remove from the wok and set aside.

Heat the oil in the same wok and add the garlic and Thai chili and cook for 30 seconds, stirring well. Add the Sichuan peppercorns and stir adding the chili sauce and oyster sauce soon after so the peppercorns do not burn. Add the chicken back and stir well to coat well with the sauce. Stir-fry on high heat for 2-3 more minutes. The chicken should crisp and coated with the oils and spices. Remove from the heat and serve immediately. If made and kept for later, the chicken looses its crispness, but will still taste good.

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