On a cool winter evening, late in 2008, and upon returning from a chilly viewing of the penguins at Phillip Island, myself and a few friends decided to venture to a quaint little chinese restaurant in the heart of Melbourne, called Dainty Sichuan. Being the only one who hadn't been to Dainty before, i let me friends order, blissfully unaware of the experience that awaited me. The plastic red chillis hanging from the walls were too-subtle clues for me in my hungry state.
So the first dish came out: semi dried slithers of beef, served cold, with a sharp chilli hit in every bite. Then some chilli eggplant, searing my nostrils with each bite. And a chilli fish stew permeated my senses as i watched my friends devour, wipe their brow, devour.
And then it came out. The signature dish: Chong Qing Lazi Ji. Crisp little morsels of heaven and hell in one bite, burrowed like nuggets of gold in a field of chillis and peppercorns. Moist and tender, the first bite bursts with flavour, before you pause, wavering, then lunge for the bottle of milk at the table only to cry out in anguish to find it's soy milk and does nothing to bathe your withering tastebuds! There is only one thing left to do- continue!! Continue until it's all gone and rush like hell to the nearest gelataria.
Please, please note: Unless you have a death with, eat the chicken but NOT the chillis.
Ingredients (Serves 4 as part of banquet)
- 700gm chicken, boneless (preferably thigh), diced into 2cm pieces
- 4 cups dried chillis
- 2 tbsp + 1 tsp sichuan peppercorns, ground
- 2 + 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 + 1 tbsp rice wine
- 3tbsp corn flour (or potato starch if possible)
- 1 bunch scallions
- 1 tbsp ginger, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 cups oil for deep frying
MethodMarinade the chicken in 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp rice wine for 1/2 hour.
Slightly break up the dried chillis so that the seeds fall out of alot of them (but dont discard the seeds!)
Cut the scallions into 2 inch batons.
Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat until shimmering
Toss the chicken in the corn flour and remove excess flour
Fry the floured chicken in 6 batches until golden and crisping around the edges.
Remove all oil from the wok buy 2 tbsp.
Add the garlic, scallions and ginger and fry for 2 minutes.
Add the chillis and sichuan pepper and fry for a further 30 seconds.
Return the chicken to the wok and toss through the chillis and sichuan pepper
Pour in the remaining soy and rice wine.
Taste a piece of chicken and season with extra salt if necessary.
Transfer to serving plate.