Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken is my all-time favorite street food snack! I love the unique crispy texture that’s tossed with the sweet & savory seasoning mix – it’s so addictive!
I used chicken thighs in this recipe but if you prefer chicken breast, you can use that instead! Just make sure to adjust the cooking time (reduce by 1 min) to ensure the meat does not dry out. I personally prefer chicken thighs because they are higher in fat and run less of a risk of becoming dry.
If you cannot or do not want to use wine, you can sub with sherry, mirin, or chicken stock!
I get asked all the time if you can sub black pepper for white pepper – and my answer is, it depends BUT you need to watch the ratio. White pepper has a milder flavor profile than black pepper, so it’s a 1-1 substitute. I would start with less black pepper and add as you go. (But really, you should have white pepper in your pantry! It’s a staple in mine!)
COARSE SWEET POTATO FLOUR
This is a KEY ingredient in this recipe, as it is what makes for the unique crunch! I get mine from 99 Ranch but I’ve also seen it sold on Amazon. The bag may be labeled ‘sweet potato starch’ – it’ll be labeled as ‘thick’ for the coarse kind. If you cannot find this, you can sub with tapioca flour or cornstarch – you can drizzle a little bit of marinade into the flour or starch to create some craggily bits.
FIVE SPICE POWDER
Five Spice Powder is a commonly used spice blend in Chinese cooking – you can make your own at home but it’s also easily obtained at most grocery stores. It’s comprised of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, and fennel seeds.
I purchase this from my local 99 Ranch (a Chinese grocery chain) – if you cannot find Thai basil, you can sub with holy basil or Italian basil.
MARINATE YOUR CHICKEN
You should marinate your chicken for at least 30 minutes, but recommended overnight! Marinating your protein is an easy way to build flavor in a dish. I would not recommend marinating for longer than 24 hours.
Do not let your frying oil drop below 325-350F when frying! I highly recommend you use a thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature. If you see it dropping below 325F, fry your wings in batches. Frying at a low temperature will result in too much moisture (AKA SOGGY!)
Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken
- 1 lb chicken thigh cut into 1" pieces
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp ginger grated
- 1 tbsp garlic grated
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 tbsp shaoxing wine
- 1 egg white
- 2 cups coarse sweet potato flour
- 1/2 tsp five spice powder
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 cup fresh basil
- Mix together five spice powder, white pepper, salt, and sugar. This will be your seasoning. Set aside.
- Cut 1 lb chicken thigh into 1" pieces.
- Marinate chicken pieces with soy sauce, grated ginger, grated garlic, white pepper, and Shaoxing wine. Marinate for at least 30 minutes (up to 24 hours).
- Add in 1 egg white to the marinated chicken and mix to combine.
- Dredge marinated chicken in sweet potato flour and pack well, leaving no bald spots.
- Fry chicken at 350°F for 3-4 minutes; add in fresh basil at the end of cooking and fry for another 30 seconds.
- Sprinkle seasoning on chicken immediately after frying and enjoy!