Spicy Diced Chicken with Chilies, or Laziji (辣子雞), is a popular dish in Sichuan Cuisine. Anyone who has spent enough time in good Sichuan restaurants is bound to eventually try a dish listed as Chongqing chicken, Sichuan chicken with chilies, wok-fried chicken, or a number of similar names.
It consists of marinated, deep-fried pieces of chicken, stir-fried with Sichuan pickled chili peppers, or chili bean paste (doubanjiang).
Serve the dish with plain white rice and any other dishes you fancy.
- Young whole chicken (or chicken leg)
- Celtuce (or cucumber)
- Sichuan pickled chili pepper
- Starch powder
- Soy sauce
- Soup stock
- Debone young whole chicken or chicken leg. Tenderize the meat and dice into cubes.
- Marinate chicken with salt, soy sauce, and starch.
- Dice celtuce root into similar size cubes.
- Mince pickled chili pepper.
- Deep fry chicken and pickled chili pepper on medium heat until meat is partially cooked.
- Turn heat to high and add ginger, garlic, scallions, and celtuce to the work and stir-fry.
Celtuce, is also called stem lettuce, celery lettuce, asparagus lettuce, or Chinese lettuce. It is crisp, moist, and mildly flavored, and typically prepared by slicing and then stir-frying with more strongly flavored ingredients.
When you don’t have celtuce, you can use cucumber as substitute in this dish.
This recipe is a specialty of Geleshan (Gele Mountain) in Chongqing. There, they use young free-range chickens, these small birds can be cut into the dainty little pieces that will sizzle and become crispy and fragrant in the deep-frying oil. If you can’t find young chicken, used boned chicken thigh meat instead.
Laziji or chicken with chilies was discovered back in 1921, inside a small eatery near Chongqing’s hilly forest park Geleshan. The recipe emerged from a dialog between the cook and his apprentice: “What to do, quickly, with a small chicken?”
The solution was quick indeed: chop the bird, legs first, deep-fry and lay aside; garlic, ginger, peppercorns, chilies, sugar, salt. Toss and serve. Exquisitely simple, but the devilish flavor is in the details. Chongqing restaurateurs used small free-range chickens from nearby farms. This poultry became a signature export for Geleshan.
In the 1990s, Laziji enjoyed an obsessive boom in popularity; there is a whole street in downtown Chongqing dedicated to the dish.