Chicken with chillies – or chillies with chicken?

I promise I’ll blog about something other than chillies one of these days, but in the meantime…

One of the most popular dishes on the menu at Bar Shu, the London Sichuanese restaurant for whom I work as consultant, is 辣 子 鸡  or chicken with chillies. It’s originally a dish from Geleshan in Chongqing, and it’s guaranteed to shock on first acquaintance. A small chicken is chopped up, on the bone, into tiny pieces, marinated and deep-fried. It is then stir-fried with an improbable wokful of chillies and Sichuan pepper – so many that you have to fish around in a pile of scorched, fragrant chillies to find the pieces of chicken in the finished dish. It’s not actually as hot as it looks, and the chicken has a marvellous fragrance, but staff at Bar Shu always try to warn unwary guests that they are not supposed to eat the chillies.

I heard recently from the waiters, however, that two of their regular customers wanted to play a trick on someone. They decided to tell their friends that the proper way to eat this dish was to eat only the chillies but leave the chicken on the plate… and they made the staff promise beforehand not to warn him. So the staff held their tongues and their laughter, wincing in empathetic pain as the friend munched his way through a heap of chillies. Luckily they were not the Dorset Naga variety mentioned in my previous post…

3 Responses to “Chicken with chillies – or chillies with chicken?”

  1. Paul Seno

    Hi, I have eaten this dish dozens of times. In my favourite restaurant,the heat varies sometimes between visits even though the dish is cooked the same. I think the heat varies according to the batch of Chilli’s used at the time.

  2. Tritone

    My (Sichuanese) girlfriend used to cook this for me and now I cook it for her using the recipe from your Sichuan cook book. I think your recipe is better!

  3. Flub

    Hi Fuchsia,

    this is the stand-out recipe from Sichuan for me. I have seen many incarnations, but all were made with the longer, thinner red Thai chillies. Your photo shows the rounder Sichuan chillies. I have unfortunately never been able to buy those, so I wonder how they compare in terms of hotness (i.e. included Capsaicin).

    When I order this dish, I do eat about two mouthfuls of the chillies in addition to the chicken. I like the taste, even if it burns. So I was a bit shocked to find out that you recommend to eat only the chicken. Is it dangerous to ones’ health to eat too much chillies? I mean apart from the burning mouth which I personally don’t have problems with.

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