Taiwanese Fried Chicken With Basil
For the chicken:
boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized nuggets
ground white pepper
cloves fresh garlic, minced (optional)
For breading and frying:
Kosher salt and ground white pepper, for the pepper salt
vegetable oil for frying
sweet potato starch
bunch fresh basil leaves, patted dry with a paper towel (Thai basil is traditional, but any culinary basil will work)
A night market favorite, these bite-sized morsels of fried chicken are ideal for snacking.
Adapted from Cathy Erway’s The Food of Taiwan
- In a baking dish, marinate the chicken with the soy sauce, five-spice powder, salt, pepper, cornstarch, and garlic. Cover and store in the refrigerator for an hour and up to a day in advance.
- Make the pepper salt by briefly toasting a mixture of equal parts salt and white pepper in a small frying pan over medium heat until the mixture is highly fragrant. Add a touch of freshly ground black and/or Szechuan peppercorns if you wish. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a high-sided pot over medium heat. In one bowl, mix the eggs and water together until completely blended. Place the sweet potato starch in a second bowl. Dip the marinated chicken in the egg wash first, then dredge it in the starch, shaking off any excess. Fry the chicken in batches until the nuggets are golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the chicken to a wire rack or tray lined with paper towels. After all of the chicken has been fried, carefully (seriously, be careful—the oil will spit and splatter) place the basil leaves in the oil in batches; remove to paper towels when translucent, after about 20 to 25 seconds of frying. In a large mixing bowl, vigorously toss the chicken nuggets with the fried basil and a generous sprinkling of the pepper salt. Serve piping hot.