Sheet Pan Salt and Pepper Chicken

1 pound (450 grams) boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breasts) , cut to 1-inch (2-cm) pieces
1 egg , beaten
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 small batch basil (or nori sheets) (*Footnote 1)

Marinade
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic , finely grated
2 teaspoons ginger , finely grated
2 teaspoons brown sugar (or regular sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Spice Mix
2 teaspoons white pepper powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar (or regular sugar)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder

Combine the chicken and the marinade ingredients in a big bowl. Mix well. Marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to overnight in the fridge.

Combine the ingredients for the spice mix in a small bowl and stir to mix well. Note, this recipe prepares more spice mix than you might use, so you can adjust the seasoning according to your preference.

When you’re ready to cook, add the beaten egg into the bowl with the chicken. Stir to mix well. Add the cornstarch. Stir to coat the chicken, until it forms an uneven coating with a little dry cornstarch left unattached. The batter should be quite dry and not very runny.

Add the oil to a large skillet (nonstick or carbon steel), just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add the chicken one piece at a time using a pair of chopsticks or tongs. Turn to medium heat if the pan starts to smoke too much.

Cook the chicken until the bottom turns golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip to brown the other side, 2 to 3 minutes. (Alternatively, you can deep-fry the chicken with more oil at 350 F (176 C) until golden brown.) Transfer chicken to a large plate and remove the pan from the stove to let it cool a bit.

Your pan should still have a thin layer of oil remaining in it. If not, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil. Heat over medium heat. Spread the basil leaves. Cook the bottom side for 30 seconds. Flip to cook the other side until crispy. Transfer the basil leaves to a large plate to cool.
While the chicken is still hot, sprinkle about half of the spice mix over the chicken and gently toss it with a pair of tongs. Taste the chicken. Add more spice mix if needed. Add the cooked basil leaves and toss again.

Serve as an appetizer.

You can store the leftover chicken in a sealed container in the fridge. To reheat the chicken, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (176 C). Heat the chicken for 10 to 15 minutes, or until heated through.

Notes
The crispy basil leaves add another flavor dimension to the dish, but it does require some extra effort to cook them. I’ve found that dried nori sheets have a similar texture and equally interesting taste. You can simply shred some nori and add it to the chicken to skip frying the basil.

Salt and Pepper Pork Chops

1 lb (450 g) boneless pork chops , cut into irregular 1/2” to 1” (1 to 2.5 cm) pieces (See the blog post above for how to cut the chops)

Marinade
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry for gluten-free)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pepper salt
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Cooking
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or enough to cover half of the pork)
3 cloves garlic , sliced
1 jalapeno , thinly sliced

Combine the cut pork with the oil, shaoxing wine, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and salt. Mix until the pork is evenly coated. Marinate for 15 minutes.

Mix the salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Add enough oil to a medium-sized pan to cover half of the pork. Heat over medium heat until hot. Prepare a plate lined with paper towels.

Add the garlic and peppers to the oil and fry them until the garlic just turns pale golden and the jalapenos crisp up on the edges, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon, draining the excess oil as you do, and place them onto the paper towel lined plate. Once the peppers and garlic have cooled, transfer them to a big bowl.

Add the 1/4 cup cornstarch to the marinated pork chops and toss to coat. Add the pork to the pan, a few pieces at a time, so they do not crowd the pan. Cook on each side for 2 to 3 minutes, until the coating is crispy and lightly browned.

Remove the pork from the pan, draining the excess oil as you do, and place them on the paper towel lined plate. Let rest for at least 10 to 20 seconds, so the paper soaks up some of the oil. Once you’ve cooked all the pork chops, transfer them to the bowl with the pepper and garlic.

Sprinkle half of the salt and pepper over everything and toss to evenly distribute. Taste the pork and sprinkle with more salt and pepper, if needed.

Sichuan Chicken Salad

2 10-12-ounce bone-in, skin-on split chicken breasts
6 scallions, white parts coarsely chopped, green parts thinly sliced on a bias, reserved separately
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, cut into 4 pieces and smashed
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
Kosher salt
1/4 cup dry sherry (optional)
2 tablespoons chili oil
2 tablespoons tahini
1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns (optional), toasted and finely ground
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large English cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced crosswise on a bias
1/3 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped

In a large saucepan, place the chicken skin side down, then add the scallion whites, ginger, garlic and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Add 4 cups water and the sherry, if using, fully submerging the chicken.
Bring to a boil over medium-high, then cover, reduce to low and cook at a bare simmer until the thickest part of the chicken registers 160°F, 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover the pan and let the chicken cool in the liquid for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the chili oil, tahini, sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, 1½ teaspoons of salt, Sichuan peppercorns, if using, and cayenne.

Using tongs, remove the chicken from the cooking liquid. Remove and discard the skin and bones, then transfer the meat to a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the tahini dressing, then use a wooden spoon to smash the meat, shredding it and working in the dressing. Use your fingers to pull the shreds into bite-size pieces.

Add the cucumber and ¾ each of the peanuts and scallion greens. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and toss until evenly coated. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining peanuts and scallions.

Galam Plee Pad Nam Pla (Thai Stir-Fried Cabbage)

1 tablespoon (15ml) vegetable oil
5 garlic cloves (20g), crushed and roughly chopped (see notes)
1/2 small head green cabbage, cored, leaves separated and cut into 2-inch pieces (yielding about 7 ounces; 200g total)
1 tablespoon (15ml) fish sauce
Ground white pepper
Cooked jasmine rice, for serving

In a wok or large carbon steel or stainless steel skillet, heat oil over high heat until just smoking. Move wok off-heat, add the garlic, and cook, keeping the wok off-heat and stirring constantly to prevent garlic from burning, until fragrant and lightly golden, about 30 seconds.

Return wok to high heat, add the cabbage, and cook, stirring and tossing rapidly to ensure garlic doesn’t burn and cabbage is evenly coated in oil. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, and begin to carefully add a few drops of water, in 1/4-teaspoon increments around the sides of the wok, making sure water has fully evaporated between each addition, until cabbage is crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add fish sauce around the sides of the wok, and continue to cook, tossing and stirring constantly, until fish sauce is fully absorbed into the cabbage, about 30 seconds. Season to taste with white pepper, transfer to a serving plate, and serve immediately with cooked jasmine rice on the side.

Chinese Quick-Pickled Shallots

1 shallot, sliced into 1/4″ (1/2 cm) round pieces
1/4 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns (or black peppercorns)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place the shallots in a heat proof bowl.

Add the peppercorns to a small pot. Toast over medium-low heat until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to the pot. Cook and stir until the sugar and salt are fully dissolved and the liquid is coming to a simmer.

Pour the hot pickling liquid over the shallots. Let the shallots cool completely.

Serve immediately, or you can store them in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.