Crispy chilli chicken (Swadilo piro tareko valeko masu) by Santosh Shah

Swadilo piro tareko valeko masu - Crispy chilli chicken
One of our most popular street foods in Nepal is a direct influence from our Indo-Chinese borders: crispy chilli chicken. It is found everywhere, usually served with soup and chow mein. The success of this dish is all in the technique. First the chicken cubes are coated and deep-fried until golden and beautifully crispy. Then the sauce, prepared in an extremely hot wok, wraps the crispy chicken in a caramelized, charred, umami seal.

It is traditionally served with Amilo Piro Tato Kukhura Ko Jhol (Hot & Sour Soup, see page 68 in the book).

For the chicken
2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
¼ teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder, or medium hot chilli powder
¼ teaspoon salt
400g (14oz) skinless, free-range chicken breasts, cut into 2.5-cm (1-in) cubes
500ml (2 cups) vegetable oil, for deep-frying

For the sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
15g (½oz) fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 fresh green chillies, finely chopped
100g (1 cup) chopped onion
150g (1⅓ cup) diced mixed (bell) peppers
½ chicken stock cube
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch) mixed with 2 tablespoons water
1 large pinch of timmur peppercorns, or Sichuan peppercorns
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon Luiche Masala (Chicken Garam Masala, see page 193 in the book)
4 tablespoons finely sliced spring onions
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped

Equipment: A kitchen thermometer

To serve (optional)
Amilo Piro Tato Kukhura Ko Jhol (Hot & Sour Soup, see page 68 in the book)

Method
First, marinate the chicken. Place the cornflour, plain flour, chilli powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of water and mix until well blended. Add the chicken cubes and toss until well coated.

Heat the 500ml (2 cups) of oil in a large wok until it reaches 180°C (350°F). Deep-fry the coated chicken cubes, in batches, for approximately 7–8 minutes until golden and crispy. Drain on kitchen paper (paper towels) and set aside. Discard the oil.

To make the sauce, heat the oil in the wok over high heat. Stir-fry the ginger, garlic and chillies for 1 minute, until golden. Add the onion and (bell) peppers and cook over high heat for about 5 minutes until charred, stirring frequently. Add about 200ml (scant 1 cup) water and the ½ chicken stock cube and cook for about 3 minutes, until reduced by three quarters. Add the fried chicken pieces, soy sauce and vinegar, and stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the cornflour mix and cook for 1 minute until the mixture is thick enough to coat the chicken and the mixture is well caramelized. Finish by adding the timmur, cumin and garam masala. Adjust the seasoning and add salt if needed, then add the coriander.

Serve the chicken hot and crispy, topped with the sliced spring onions. Offer a bowl of the hot and sour soup, if you like.

Cook more from this book
Steamed chicken momos with ginger and chilli with a tomato sesame chutney (Kukhura ko momo) by Santosh Shah
Aloo ko tarkari – potato curry by Santosh Shah
Coriander and peanut chutney (Badam ko chutney) by Santosh Shah

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Buy this book
Ayla: A Feast of Nepali Dishes from Terai, Hills and the Himalayas by Santosh Shah.
£20, DK

Photographer: Matt Russell