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Spicey Chicken with Orange

This is inspired by a Ken Hom recipe for beef and orange, which I often cook to use up leftover roast beef.

Chicken breasts
Spring onion
Ginger
Dark soy sauce
Groundnut oil
Dried red chillis
Orange zest
Szechuan peppercorns
Rice wine
Sugar
Sesame oil

Thinly slice the chicken breasts (about 2-3 mm thick, across the grain). Marinade them in dark soy, finely chopped spring onions and slices of ginger (I use a lot of ginger, because I love it) for at least 30 minutes.

Heat some groundnut (or other) oil in a wok over a high heat until it is smoking. Throw in two lightly crushed dried red chillis and stirfry for a few seconds (this will produce smoke that makes everyone cough – this is normal), then add the chicken and stirfry until it is just cooked (should only take a minute or two, depending on quantity and how much heat you can bring to bear). Add finely sliced orange zest, crushed Szechuan peppercorns, more soy, a smidge of rice wine and a little sugar. Stir and fry for another couple of minutes. Take off the heat and stir in a little sesame oil.

Eat with plain boiled white rice and a simple vegetable (I did pak choi with soy last night).

Some notes: dried red chillis, despite being very, very small are really quite hot. Two of them to a pound or so of chicken gives noticeable (but not fire-hydrant-requiring) bite.

Szechuan pepper is not related to pepper at all (I believe it is some kind of ash, in fact) and I know of no substitute. It is vital to the flavour of this dish. For guidance, for a pound of chicken I’ll use about a teaspoon of Szechuan pepper, lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar.

Sesame oil is entirely optional, but I’m a big fan. I’d probably sometimes also add some more spring onion at the same time as the sesame oil, but I didn’t last night, so I am not specifying it. Spring onion that has been wilted by the heat of the dish alone is delicious, IMO.

The secret of tender chicken is to not overcook it, so you really need to stop stir-frying it and add the rest of the ingredients as soon as you can – even a little before all the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Because it is so thin, as soon as the outside looks done (i.e. has changed colour – it gets lighter when it cooks), it is done all the way through. If the chicken does not feel moist and delicate, you overdid it.

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