We had this chicken for the first time at an outstanding restaurant in Huatulco. Only about 7 tables, most of them on the sidewalk, and yet they had the most amazing fusion of flavours. The owners spent a fair bit of time traveling around Asia, and this is reflected in their food. If you get a chance to try out “Mercader”, then go. Until we go back, I will just have to make this at home!
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 medium head of garlic
3 green onions, white and 1-inch of the green part, minced
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1 teaspoon sweet potato starch
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup cold water
2-3 cups sweet potato starch (I had to ask one of our daughters to buy this from an Asian market in Vancouver and bring it home for me!)
3-4 cups peanut, rice bran or avocado oil
Leaves from 1 bunch of fresh Thai basil
salt and white pepper to taste
1. Cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks and place in large bowl. Make the marinade by mincing or forcing the garlic through a press into a small bowl. Add the minced green onions, soy sauce, Mirin, 5-spice, white pepper, sweet potato starch and cayenne pepper, stir to form a paste and then scrape into the bowl with the chicken. Mix to coat all the chicken and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
2. Once the chicken is done marinating, place the eggs in medium sized bowl with the 1/2 cup of water. Beat together with a fork. Place the sweet potato starch in another medium sized bowl. Heat the frying oil in a sauté pan or wok until it reaches 350˚F. Using chopsticks or tongs, dip the chicken first in the watery egg mixture then in the starch and fry the chicken pieces without crowding them too much for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Try not to overcrowd the pan, I usually fry about 6-8 pieces at a time in the wok and 8 – 10 pieces in my 10” sauté pan. Side note, I don’t recommend using a deep fryer that re-uses the oil. The sweet potato starch is so fine that it doesn’t filter easily.
3. Once fried, place the chicken on a wire rack or a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Immediately toss with generous amounts of salt and white pepper to taste. Once you’ve fried all the chicken, fry the Thai basil leaves for 30 seconds or until they darken and then serve with the chicken.