Tag: DIY

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken (yan2su1ji1 鹽酥雞)

yan su ji taiwanese popcorn chicken

When my sister and I were younger, my mom would sometimes take us out for smoothies/drinks or tapioca milk tea, more affectionately known as boba nai cha, or “bubble” tea (east coasters only) at a small Taiwanese boba place. This little cafe had tasty and fairly-priced drinks and an assortment of Taiwanese fried snacks. We would go mostly for an after-school snack, and get a drink each, and oftentimes, yan2su1ji1. They were tiny little nuggets of chicken that was first seasoned well then lightly battered and fried. The chicken would come in a small paper bag, along with flash fried Thai basil (fried chicken and basil go hand in hand) and small skewers for us to use to transfer the fried goodies to our mouths.

 Sometimes I would be too full from crispy crunchy chicken and my drink (usually green or red bean slushy with boba) to have a full dinner. Woops!

We were at a friends’ house for dinner tonight, and since they were going to show us pictures of their Taiwan trips and make us 牛肉麵 (Beef Noodle Soup), we thought that Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken would be a nice addition to the Taiwan-themed night.

What is Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken? It’s fried little pieces of chicken, that is first marinated in all sorts of aromatic and yummy stuff…Then it’s coated with sweet potato starch to yield a crunchy outside that has crackly bits due to the little bits of sweet potato starch. After it comes out of the oil, you add more seasonings such as white pepper and 5 spice powders, and cayenne pepper powder..! It’s spicy, it’s savory, crunchy, and goes so well with the bits of fried Thai basil. I don’t drink alcohol, but if I did, I imagine it would be great with some beer, too!

Ingredient Spotlight: Sweet potato starch is often used in Taiwanese deep frying..fried chicken, fried pork chops, fried..stuff. Yay!

sweet potato starch (coarse)

Look for chunks of un-powdered sweet potato starch; those small chunks give the chicken crust its speckly/spotted appearance. The word below the Net Wt is ‘cu’ which means coarse. Get the coarse one!

Now for the recipe:
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Copycat Solo Almond Paste

If you go to Solo’s website, they give you the list of ingredients:

Blanched Almonds, sugar, water, natural flavor, potassium sorbate (preservative)

Picture from http://picklesandcheeseblog.blogspot.com/2010_01_01_archive.html

 Here are the assumptions and the math, if you care.

1) Assume that sugar adds no fat and that the weights of the “natural flavor” and potassium sorbate are negligible- meaning, calculations will pretend that the almond paste is just made of blanched almonds, sugar, and water.
2) Assume that the blanched almonds in their almond paste contains the same nutritional composition as those used in Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour.
3) Assume that sugar has the same nutritional composition as listed on wikipedia and other links.

Okay. Let’s begin!

This is where weight reigns supreme over volume!
On Bob’s website, it says that 28 grams of almond meal contains 14 grams of fat and 160 calories.
Solo’s almond paste says that 40 grams of paste contains 10 grams of fat and 180 calories.

If almonds are the only source of fat, you can say:
28/14 = x/10

(for those who have forgotten their algebra, that means, if 28 grams of almond meal contributes 14 grams of fat, how many grams of almond contributes 10 grams of fat? )

Also, you see from up top that 1 gram of almond meal = 0.5 gram of fat, so you can say that twice of 10 is 20.

20 grams of almonds in 40 grams of almond paste = 50% almonds

Bob’s website also says that 28 grams of almond meals contains 1 gram of sugar.
1/28=x/40 , solved for x, tells you that there are 1.43 grams of sugar from the almonds in the 40 grams of paste.

Solo says that 40 grams of paste contains 16 grams of sugar.

16-1.43 = 14.57 grams of sugar are contributed from sugar.

14.57 grams of sugar in 40 grams of almond paste = 36.4% sugar

40-20-14.57 = 5.43, which leaves us at 13.6% water 

So there you have it, folks. 

Okay, let’s check with the calories:
20 grams of almonds * 160 cal/28 g = 114.3 calories
14.57 grams of sugar * 3.87 cal/g = 56.4 calories
Total calories = 170.7
I’m 9.3 calories off, but…not bad, right? that’s less than 5% error.

So, go forth and make your own almond paste (by weight, please) to copy Solo’s:

Blanched Almonds (50%), sugar (36.4%), water (13.6%)

Hopefully no one will hunt me down for doing this!


Blackened Salmon (or Shrimp/Chicken)

For a while now, I thought of ‘blackened _______’ at restaurants as a bit more fancy. I would think..HMM what did they do to it? Maybe they grilled it differently…whatever it was, it was tasty! Silly Megan, it’s just a blend of herbs/spices that they apply heat to that makes it “blackened”. It’s not carcinogenic, either…

 I adapted this recipe from the Kitchn. I had 8 measly shrimp that I defrosted, drained, then used, but I know you could use white fish, salmon, or chicken (as directed in the recipe) with no problems! I was too afraid of the many calories to follow the alfredo sauce very faithfully…so please do follow her recipe if you want a clumpless, silky alfredo!

 Blackened seasoning


2 T. paprika

2 t. each of:

-black pepper

-dried oregano

-kosher salt

-1/2 t. sugar

-1 t. garlic powder

A few dashes of red pepper flakes, or 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Get desired protein. Pat dry. Coat with blackening seasoning. Grill or pan fry! Use high heat for quick cooking proteins, and use high then lower heat for slower cooking / thicker proteins.

blackened salmon


-If you have thyme, add that in, too (2 tsp)! I just didn’t have it so I left it out and we still enjoyed it.
-Blackened food is great over salads and pastas, or even just rice!

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