1 lb (450 g) boneless skinless chicken thighs , cut to 1-inch (2-cm) pieces (or breasts)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic , finely grated
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
1 teaspoon brown sugar (or regular sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons white pepper powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (or regular sugar)
1/8 teaspoon five-spice powder
1 small batch basil, sliced (or nori sheets) (*Footnote 1)
Sliced hot peppers of your choice (jalapeno, Asian red long pepper, Bird eye chile etc)
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 end up using, so you can adjust the seasoning according to your preference.
When you’re ready to cook, add the cornstarch to the chicken, a few tablespoons at a time. Stir to coat the chicken, until all the pieces are covered with cornstarch.
Place the chicken pieces into your air fryer basket (or tray), without overlapping. Cook in batches if needed. Spray oil onto the chicken until there’s no dry cornstarch on the surface.
Cook in the air fryer at 350°F (176°C) for 10 minutes. Take out the chicken, flip and spray oil again. Raise the temperature to 400°F (200°C) and cook until the chicken turns golden brown, 5 minutes or so. Transfer all the chicken pieces to a big bowl. 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 sliced basil to the chicken, garnish with chili pepper, and serve with lemon wedges on the side, if using. Serve hot as an appetizer.
Traditional salt and pepper chicken uses crispy deep fried basil leaves to add another dimension of flavor to the dish, but it does require some extra effort to cook them since you can’t fry them in the air fryer. I’ve found that dried nori sheets have a similar texture and an equally interesting taste. Or you can simply serve the chicken with fresh basil like I did in the recipe, which .tastes great as well