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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