Chicken breast or thighs?
Here at home — thigh fillet with the skin on is always preferred. The higher fat content of the dark meat of chicken thighs ensures that despite the intensely high heat in which the chicken nuggets are cooked, the inside stays moist.
Why skin on?
Two reasons. First, the fat in the skin adds more moistness to the meat. Second, the chicken skin adds a layer of crispiness because it turns into crackling during frying.
Tips for making the batter
Whisk the dry ingredients first before adding the water. This way, it will only take a few strokes to distribute everything evenly after the water is added. This is important because mixing the batter for too long will encourage the formation of gluten in the flour and that will make the batter bready rather than crispy.
Depending on the quality of your flour and corn starch, the amount of water can be anywhere from ½ cup to a full cup.
To test if the consistency of the batter is correct, dip a piece of floured chicken in it then lift it up. You should see parts of the chicken meat through the wet batter. If all you see is batter, it is too thick and you need to add more water to thin it out.
What’s the best chili sauce for coating the fried chicken?
Sweet chili sauce
Sweet chili sauce is available in Asian stores. But most are thickened with starch. In this recipe, starch is omitted. Instead, the ingredients are boiled until reduced to a syrupy consistency.
Homemade sweet chili sauce is always best. Because there is no thickener, the syrupy sauce crystallize as it cools and that gives the fried chicken a crispy crust even after the temperature of the chicken drops while it sits on the dining table waiting to be devoured.
Sweet chili fried chicken rice bowl
- 6 medium chicken thigh fillets - preferably skin on
For the marinade
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice - or lime juice
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 pinch grated garlic
- 1 bird's eye chili - finely chopped
To fry the chicken
- cooking oil - for deep frying
- ½ cup all-purpose flour - divided
- ¼ cup corn starch
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
For the glaze
- ½ cup sweet chili sauce - click the link to get the recipe
- cooked rice - Japanese rice is recommended
- edamame - or your preferred greens
- Pat the chicken thigh fillets dry with paper towels. Cut into 1½-inch cubes.
- In a bowl, mix all the ingredients for the marinade until the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Add the chicken to the marinade and mix well.
- Cover the bowl and marinate the chicken in the fridge for at least an hour.
- In a wok or frying pan, heat enough cooking oil to reach a depth of at least three inches. The ideal frying temperature is 350F.
- While the oil heats up, make the batter by whisking together the corn starch, salt, pepper, chili powder and half of the flour. Stir in iced water to make a fairly thin batter.
- Toss the chicken in the remaning flour.
- When the temperature of the oil reaches 350F (or, if you don’t use a thermometer, you see fine wisps of smoke floating on the surface of the oil), it is time to start frying.
- Dip each piece of floured chicken in the batter and drop in the hot oil. Cook the chicken in batches to avoid overcrowding which will result in temperature drop. The coating of the chicken should be lightly browned after four to five minutes of frying which is just enough time to ensure that the chicken is cooked all the way through.
- Drain the cooked chicken and transfer to a mixing bowl.
- Drizzle in the sweet chili sauce and toss to coat each piece of chicken with sauce.
- Serve the sweet chili popcorn chicken over rice with your preferred greens on the side.