What is “chilli chicken”?
The Indian Chili chicken or Chilli chicken is an Indo-Chinese dish––crispy batter fried nuggets of chicken cooked in soy sauce flavored with garlic and ginger and a whole lot of fresh Thai green chilies. It can be either dry chilli chicken to be had as an appetizer or hors d’oeuvres, or it can have a thick gravy that goes well with fried rice or chow mein. Chili chicken is to India what General Tso’s chicken is to USA–not Chinese at all, but totally the most popular Chinese dish in the country. I think it is safe to say that Indian chili chicken was invented in Calcutta because Calcutta has the only China town in India.
In India, we all love dry chili chicken and its bits of lively green chilies. The insanely fiery sauce of dry chili chicken makes this dish a perfect bar snack. But what I love most about chilli chicken is Kolkata’s China town…for the numerous happy hours I have spent with my friends there and the volumes of happy memories that I have come to associate with that place. The last time I went to China town in Kolkata was exactly two years ago. I miss the ambiance and my friends too much, but lucky for me that I won’t have to miss the dish anymore, because this crispy, garlicky, spicy “chilli chicken” recipe is an exact replica of the China town version.
A wise person once said that if you have spent a couple of hours in China town with a friend, drinking beers and eating chili chicken, then you have bonded for life. I believe that’s true, or at least I hope it is.
Ingredients for making chilli chicken
Chicken: Since this recipe batter fires the chicken pieces, it is best to use boneless chicken. I prefer using boneless thigh chicken because the high fat content prevents the chicken from becoming dry. But if you have breast chicken, it should work, too.
Garlic: I like to use lots of garlic in chilli chicken. Whatever you believe should be a good amount of garlic for making a certain quantity of chicken, just double that.
Vegetables: I like to use a lot of bell peppers, onions and green onions in my chili chicken, but you can skip the bell peppers and onion greens.
Soy sauce: Try to use a dark soy sauce with high sodium content. Chilli chicken has a very dark, caramel-y color, which comes from the soy sauce.
Hot sauce: I used sriracha, but feel free to use green chili sauce or hot garlic sauce.
Green chilies: How much hot sauce or green chilies you use will depend on your preferred taste. As the name suggests, chili chicken has lots of chilies. But the good thing about homemade chili chicken is that you can mold it to your taste.
How to make restaurant-style dry chili chicken?
Restaurant-style Dry Chili Chicken recipe
- 500 grams boneless chicken cut into bite size pieces
- 1 tbsp ginger paste
- 1 tbsp garlic paste
- 4 tsp green chilies
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sriracha or any other chili sauce optional
- 1 tsp Salt to taste
- 1 tsp black pepper powder
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour or just enough to coat the chicken pieces
- Oil for deep frying
For the sauce
- 2 tbsp canola/sesame oil
- 1 tbsp garlic mined
- 1 tbsp ginger minced
- 4-5 green chilies chopped
- 1 large red onion diced
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 green bell pepper diced
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp chili sauce or more
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- salt to taste
- 2-3 springs green onions chopped
- Clean and pat dry the chicken pieces. Add garlic, ginger, and green chili paste and soy sauce. Mix well and let marinate in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.
- Add 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp black pepper powder and mix well. Add all-purpose flour and eggs, and mix to coat each chicken piece evenly.
- Heat enough oil in a frying pan and fry the marinated pieces of chicken in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan, until golden brown (takes about 7-8 minutes depending on heat). Remove and drain on paper towels.
- Heat 1 tbsp of canola/sesame oil in a wok or a fresh pan, and add garlic, ginger, chilies and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
- Add the onion and sugar and cook over high heat for 2-3 minutes. Now and bell peppers and sauté over medium to high heat for 3-4 minutes. You don't want to cook them down.
- Add soy sauce, vinegar, chili sauce, cracked black pepper, and stir vigorously.
- Add the fried chicken pieces and stir to evenly coat them in the sauce. Add chopped green onions. Adjust salt if necessary.
- If you want to make a gravy, mix 1 tbsp cornflour in 1/2 cup water and add to the chicken.
- Remove from heat and serve as appetizer or with steamed rice.