Salt and Pepper Chicken

Salt and pepper chicken. Yum.

I was watching the Cooking Channel and saw a piece on salt and pepper chicken. It never occurred to me that I could actually make anything salt and pepper related in my own kitchen. My sister always orders pork prepared this way from her local Chinese restaurant and I love it.

The idea of having a crispy skin covered in salt made me very happy to think about. So, I took notes on the recipe and gathered my ingredients. It looked pretty easy and fell well into my gluten-free and dairy-free preferences.

Up until this point, I had never deep fried anything. The fear of consuming all of the properly prepared donuts and other deep fried goodness I might be able to make gave me pause. It kept the vats of boiling oil at bay. Until now.

Most of the appeal was in the challenge to see if I could make chicken that tasted as good as some of the fantastic wings that are available in many of SF's excellent Chinese restaurants. I was also intrigued by the ingredients and the act of deep frying itself.

And so, on a Tuesday night, we got started. At first, I didn't believe it could be as simple as the following recipe (from Ching He-Huang of the Cooking Channel's Easy Chinese: San Francisco) suggested. Boy, was it ever. The hardest part was crushing up the peppercorns , which I was hoping would be bigger than your traditional grinder could supply.

The best part was the moment the coated chicken hit the hot oil. It was so cool to see how the skin immediately crunched up. I will say, though, I was raised by a woman (you know, Gran Fran) who lived in mortal fear of pans and ingredients catching on fire.

I recall at some point, I think it was Junior High, there was duck being roasted at our house. Gran Fran was convinced that a fire was going to break out, due to the high fat content of the duck skin, so the fire department was called. To be honest, not sure I saw any fire coming from the oven, but I remember the neighbors coming out to see what the heck was going on in the Claro household.

Needless to say, I am cautious with flames and deep frying. I had my phone at the ready, in case I inadvertently set the house on fire. Next time Gran Fran comes to town, I'll make her this fantastic recipe and maybe put her mind at ease that her youngest has the sense to proceed with care, while stepping out a bit.

Salt and Pepper Chicken

recipe and method reposted from: Easy Chinese: San Francisco, Ching He-Huang


  • 6 chicken thighs, each piece chopped in half across the bone
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons cornstarch, for dusting
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 heaping tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 4 to 6 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped


  • Place the chicken thighs in a large bowl. Cover the chicken with the light soy sauce, Chinese five-spice powder, salt and garlic, and stir to coat.
  • Toss the chicken with the toasted sesame oil.
  • Let marinate for as much time as you have; for best results, leave the chicken in the refrigerator overnight.
  • When ready to fry, toss the chicken pieces in the cornstarch.
  • Heat a large wok or pan over high heat and add the vegetable oil.
  • Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, add the chicken and fry lightly until the thighs are golden brown on all sides and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Drain the chicken on paper towels and season them with salt, pepper and cilantro as they come out of the oil.

Thanks, Ching He-Huang! This recipe will be in regular rotation at our house from here on out.