When done right, this dish is magical, flavorful and just plan fun to eat. There are a lot of steps, but the recipe is pretty straight forward and a lot of prep-work can be done ahead of time - the actual cooking happens pretty quickly.
For the Marinade:
- 1 egg white
- 2 T soy sauce
- 2 T sherry
- 2 T vodka
- 1/4 t baking soda
- 3 T corn starch
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
pro tip: if you are in an Asian grocery store, pick up some Shaoxing wine and use in place of sherry above (and in the sauce below).
For the Dry Coating:
- 1/2 C flour
- 1/2 C cornstarch
- 1/2 t baking powder
- 1/2 t kosher salt
For the Sauce:
- 6 T dark soy sauce
- 4 T sherry
- 4 T rice vinegar
- 6 T chicken stock or broth
- 4 T sugar
- 2 t sesame seed oil
- 2 T corn starch
- 1 T cooking oil (peanut, vegetable or canola)
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 1 T minced fresh ginger
- 2 T minced green onions, plus about 6 green onions, white parts only, cut into 1-inch lengths diagonally
- 8-10 small dried red Chinese or Arbol chilies
- Peanut oil for deep frying, about 1 1/2” deep in heavy pan
- Steamed white rice for serving
- Chopped cilantro and peanuts (optional)
For the Marinade: Beat egg whites in a large bowl until broken down and lightly foamy. Add soy sauce, wine and vodka and whisk to combine. Set aside half of marinade in a small bowl. Add baking soda and corn starch to the large bowl and whisk to combine. Add chicken to marinade and turn with fingers to coat thoroughly. Set aside.
For the Dry Coat: Combine flour, corn starch, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk until combined. Add reserved marinade and whisk until mixture has coarse, mealy clumps. Set aside.
For the Sauce: Combine soy sauce, wine, vinegar, chicken stock, sugar, sesame seed oil and cornstarch in a bowl and stir with a fork until cornstarch is dissolved and no lumps remain. Set aside.
Combine oil, garlic, ginger, minced scallions and red chilies in a large skillet and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are aromatic and soft, but not browned, about 3 minutes. Stir sauce mixture and add to skillet, making sure to scrape out and sugar or starch that has sunk to the bottom. Cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens, about 1 minute. Add scallion segments. Take pan off heat (leave sauce in there).
To Finish: Heat peanut oil in a large wok or Dutch oven to 350°F and adjust flame to maintain temperature.
Working a few pieces at a time, transfer chicken from marinade to dry coat mixture, tossing in between each addition to coat chicken. When all chicken is added to dry coat, toss with hands, pressing dry mixture onto chicken so it adheres, and making sure that every piece is coated thoroughly. It won’t looks like it’s fully covered, but don’t worry.
Lift chicken one piece at a time, shake off excess coating, and carefully lower into hot oil (do not drop it). Once all chicken is added, cook, agitating with long spoon or tongs, and adjusting flame to maintain a temperature of 325 to 375°F, until chicken is cooked through and very crispy, about 4 minutes. Transfer chicken to a paper towel-lined bowl to drain.
Add chicken to sauce skillet and put on low heat. Toss chicken, folding it with a rubber spatula until all pieces are thoroughly coated with sauce. Serve immediately with white rice.