Taiwanese Salt and Pepper Popcorn Chicken (椒盐鸡块 / 咸酥鸡 / 盐酥鸡)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Inactive time of refrigerating the marinated chicken overnight not included
Yield: Serves 2 as an appetizer
  • 300 grams chicken thigh
  • Canola / peanut oil for frying
  • Potato starch / sweet potato starch for frying
  • Handful of basil leaves (don't pre-wash them, just brush off any dirt)
  • Salt, ground white pepper and cayenne powder
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • ½ thumb ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • ½ tablespoon mirin
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch / potato starch
  • ¼ teaspoon five spice powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)
  1. Rinse and pat dry chicken thigh with paper towels. Trim off excess fats then cut the chicken thigh into 1-inch pieces. Place into a small mixing bowl and add in Marinade ingredients (garlic, ginger, light soy sauce, mirin, cornstarch/potato starch, five spice powder, ground white pepper and cayenne powder). Coat the chicken pieces well with the marinade. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Heat 1-inch deep of oil in a pot over medium heat. (I used a small 1-litre pot so I don't have to use so much oil.) Insert a dry wooden chopstick or the handle of a dry wooden spoon in the oil - when the oil bubbles steadily form around the chopstick or spoon, the oil is ready for frying.
  3. Coat the chicken pieces in potato starch and add into the oil. If your pot is small like mine, fry the chicken in 2 batches. Cook over medium heat, stirring the chicken occasionally to prevent them from sticking together, for 3 to 5 minutes until cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain off excess oil in a sieve / colander / rack. Repeat until all the chicken is cooked through.
  4. Turn the heat up to high and heat the oil for 30 seconds to 1 minute (not smoking hot, if the oil smokes, remove from heat and cool slightly before using). Add all the cooked chicken pieces back into the pot and fry over high heat until the exterior is crisp and golden-brown in colour, about 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain off excess oil on paper towels.
  5. Turn the heat down to medium. Add in basil leaves (be careful they will sputter so stand back or cover with a splatter guard) and fry until crisp, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain off excess oil on paper towels.
  6. Transfer the still-hot chicken into a mixing bowl and season with salt (do so sparingly), white pepper and cayenne pepper, if using. Toss in the crispy basil leaves and serve immediately.
Naggy Notes
- The basil leaves will sputter so it's best not to wash them (I learned this the hard way). If you wash them, make sure they dry thoroughly with many paper towels before frying. If you don't want to go through the trouble, just thinly slice the fresh basil leaves (ribbon) and toss with the cooked fried chicken.

- Recipe adapted from Eat the Love
Recipe by Foodie Baker at https://www.foodiebaker.com/taiwanese-salt-pepper-popcorn-chicken/