Saliva Chicken

Saliva Chicken

‘Made to make your mouth water’ would be a better
translation for this searing salad of poached chicken steeped
in sesame oil, red chilli oil and lashings of Sichuan pepper.

Origins
Don’t be put off by the English name – this is one of those ‘lost in translation’ moments. What the Chinese name is supposed to suggest is a dish so delicious that you cannot help but start salivating when you think about it – think ‘mouth-watering’ rather than ‘from the chef’s mouth’. In Sichuan, it is served hot or cold as a starter to those who can take the heat to stimulate the taste buds for the banquet ahead.

You’ll need
Poached Chicken
1 fresh chicken, cut into
quarters
Pinch of salt
2.5cm (1in) piece fresh ginger,
peeled
2 spring onions (scallions),
chopped
2 tbs sesame oil

Marinade
2 tbs Sichuan peppercorns
1 clove of garlic, peeled
and minced
1 tbs minced fresh ginger
3 tbs dark soy sauce
3 tbs light soy sauce
2 tbs dark vinegar
1 tsp granulated sugar
2 tbs sesame oil
3 tbs chilli oil
40g (1–2oz) roasted peanuts

Garnish
2 tbs sesame seeds
Handful of fresh coriander
(cilantro) leaves, chopped

Cooking Method
1 Rub the chicken with the salt, then poach it in boiling water in a covered pan with the ginger and spring onions for 20–25 minutes.
2 Turn the chicken and poach for another 20–25 minutes, then transfer to a bowl of cold water and leave to cool. Rub with sesame oil.
3 Bone the chicken quarters and chop the meat into bite-sized pieces.
4 Mix the marinade ingredients together, pour over the chicken and leave to marinate for half an hour.
5 Top the cooked chicken with the garnish and serve.

Tasting notes
Despite its potent heat, saliva chicken is remarkably subtle by Sichuan standards. Instead of being an all-out assault on the senses, this is a spicy dish with a sensitive heart. Sure, your first bite will deliver the expected hammer-blow of chilli and Sichuan pepper, but behind that the creaminess of the poached chicken provides a cool, calm place to escape the fire. Each mouthful starts with an explosion but ends with blessed relief. You’ll still leave with your lips burning at the end of the meal, but you’ll also remember the more subtle flavours in the poached chicken – sesame, coriander and the delicate overtones of ginger and spring onion– a truly mouth-watering combination.

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