Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken!
Sunday ended up being the dinner we planned for Saturday. Ever since the son told me about the AMAZING popcorn chicken he ate at Mr Go’s café / restaurant in Wellington, I had to try it for myself. And yes, it was beyond delicious. We started experimenting to make it at home, and found a pretty good recipe. Even with a recipe at hand though, it took us several attempts to make a foolproof tempura batter (we had the best results using chilled sparkling water with ice cubes), to find the optimum size for the chicken pieces, and to heat the oil to the correct temperature. We reckon we’ve got it right now, but this was probably the sixth or seventh time we’ve cooked it.
This is the recipe: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/263930/popcorn-chicken-taiwanese/
We prefer to use chicken tenderloins though, rather than thighs, as they are easier to chop into regular sized pieces. I agree that thigh meat gives the best taste and texture, but trimming the thighs is a pain in the butt. For me, anyway 😊
Don’t be put off by the TINY amount of marinade. It’s an insanely small amount for all that chicken meat, but it works.
Because we cook these in the wok, and have no thermometer, we use the checking-the-heat-by-cooking-cubes-of-bread. We want the oil at 200 degrees C. At this temperature, a cube of day-old bread should be golden in around 20 seconds.
We have something of a production line going. Son makes the batter and heats the oil. I prepare the chicken and marinade, and cut up the bread cubes for timing. We need around ten to twelve cubes. Remember that each batch of chicken that you cook will cool the oil, and it needs to be reheated before the next batch goes in. We cook in small, one-portion batches for super-crispiness, and ALWAYS do a test batch at the start.
The sides have to be simple. It takes all our concentration to cook the popcorn chicken, and drain in on kitchen paper while getting the oil reheated (and scooping away any residual blobs of batter). We usually have slices of a fresh baguette, and a generous serving of homemade coleslaw. Whatever you serve it with needs to have some moisture. Aioli goes well as a dip, or spice up some mayo with a splash of pepper sauce, or even a little dish of sweet chilli sauce. And then dig in, and enjoy 😊
Well worth the effort.
New Zealand is still under Lockdown restrictions. This blog intends to avoid the bad news about rising numbers of victims. It focuses instead on food, and the challenges of cooking fresh meals every day – with the ingredients from my larder. A much nicer message 😊