Greg's oil-dripped chicken
Marinated, steamed, deep-fried chicken
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One of the more common Chinese dishes is a crispy fried chicken. There appear to be different recipes: some are deep-fried, others baked, others steamed.

I maintain a deep fryer with 9 kg of fat, which needs changing about every 4 to 6 months. When I do, I try to find something to deep fry that I can't normally do without making the fat too dirty. Very often this is a duck, first steamed and then deep-fried.

On this occasion I decided to do it with a chicken instead. I was astonished how difficult it was to find a good recipe. It seems that the Gods of kitchen guesswork have been particularly active here. What I found was:

The first time round I wasn't very happy with the results, and wrote:

Note: this page describes a recipe that I probably won't make again. It wasn't good enough. Still, the information might be interesting.

The next time I tried it I had decided on it before reading the recipe. On reflection, the main issue was that the results weren't what I expected. I wrote:

The chicken didn't get crisp, and it was surprisingly lacking in herb and spice flavour. It was nice and juicy, in particular the breast, much more so than an oven-roasted chicken. My best explanation is that a chicken, particularly a larger one, is much moister than a duck, and steaming doesn't dry out the meat the way roasting does. Maybe I should have deep fried it at 180 instead of 160.

This time I took heed of these comments and marinated longer and with more ingredients, and fried at a higher temperature. It still didn't get crisp, but it did have a good spicy flavour (i.e. of spices, not “hot”). there.


I always weigh solids. In particular, things like “clove of garlic” or “big onion” mean nothing. In a previous version of this recipe I included a “traditional measures” column, but it's really very inaccurate and difficult to synchronize, so I've removed it. See the weights and measures page for more details.
quantity ingredient step
1.5 kg chicken 1
2 g star anise 2
5 g black pepper 2
25 g spring onion 2
9 g ginger 2
50 ml light soy sauce 2
50 ml cooking sherry or other light white wine 2
oil for deep frying 4
20 g spring onion 5
5 g szechauan pepper 5
5 ml sesame oil 5

1: The chicken

Clean the chicken, remove the parson's nose.

2: The marinade

Grind the pepper and star anise, coarsely chop ginger and spring onions, and chop finely in a blender with the liquids. Pour over the chicken and marinate for at least 2 hours, but not more than 24:


3: Steaming

Steam the chicken for an hour or so until it looks cooked. Measure with a meat thermometer if possible. The temperature on the inside of the joint at the top of the legs should be 80.

4: Deep frying

Deep fry in fat at 180 until crispy. Be careful to ensure that the chicken is relatively dry before putting in the fat.

5: Serving

Chop the chicken into serving size pieces. Chop the spring onion, grind the pepper, and sprinkle over the chicken with some sesame oil.

Other recipes

I've already pointed at the oil-dripped chicken recipe. This is identical to the recipe printed in “Pei Mei's Chinese Cook Book, Volume 1” (Taipei, 1969), and I'm left wondering whether there aren't some significant copyright issues here (quite apart from the question whether this is a Chinese or Vietnamese dish).

There are more recipes for “Crispy skin chicken”. Here are some that look relatively typical:

All these recipes, without exception, have completely illusory cooking times. None cooks a whole chicken for more than 25 minutes, and some cook for as little as 3 minutes. I'm left wondering whether crispy chicken softens the brain.

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