Chicken fillets with hoisin sauce and Szechuan (Sichuan) pepper

In a nutshell, seasoned strips of chicken fillets dredged in flour (or starch), deep fried, tossed with warmed hoisin sauce, and toasted sesame seeds. When this recipe was originally posted on February 8, 2008, I had two issues. First, although the recipe was based on a Chinese dish called Szechuan (Sichuan) Pork and one of the essential ingredients was Szechuan peppercorns, I did not include Szechuan peppercorns in my recipe because, at the time, I didn’t know where to get them. Well, that was more than two years ago and I now have a supply of Szechuan peppercorns in my pantry.

Second, the cooked dish always turned too dark and this I attributed to two things. The soy sauce marinade and the caramelization of the sugar in the hoisin sauce. I have modified the recipe. Instead of soy sauce, I use salt. Then, instead of heating the hoisin sauce over medium heat, I simply pour it into the still-hot pan with the flame off. That way, it thins but does not burn.

With a mortar and pestle, grind the Szechuan peppercorns. Mix with the salt and sprinkle over the chicken. With your hands, mix lightly but thoroughly. Add the flour or tapioca (or corn) starch to the seasoned chicken. Toss, and separating chicken strips that may stick together to make sure that all sides of every piece of chicken are coated with flour/starch.

Heat the cooking oil in a wok until it starts to smoke. Add the floured chicken, one at a time, and cook only enough pieces in a batch to make sure that the pan is not overcrowded. Fry the chicken strips until lightly golden, turning them over halfway through for even cooking. Repeat with another batch until all the chicken is cooked. As each batch of chicken is cooked, place it in a plate or shallow bowl lined with paper towels to remove excess oil.

Pour off the cooking oil. Wipe the wok with paper towels to remove any flour/starch residue. Pour the hoisin sauce into the still hot wok. Swirl or use a spatula so that the sauce covers as much of the cooking surface of the wok. Add the cooked chicken and the toasted sesame seeds. Toss and stir lightly, or do both, so that each piece of chicken is coated with some of the sauce and sesame seeds.