Bang Bang Chicken, Strange-Flavour Chicken, or Cold Chicken with Sauce


It’s hard to make one’s choice when more than half of a cookery book has been marked to be tested…. (If you have been following my latest culinary discoveries, you will not be surprised  if I say I talk about “Sichuan Cookery” by Fuchsia Dunlop). I always hesitate between the famous recipes I want to test, the easy and quick no-fuss dishes and of course the intriguing ones. Bang Bang Chicken (Bang bang ji si) falls into the latter category and not only by its amusing name (which makes me hum a certain film soundtrack for two last days…) but, as I later learnt, also by its unusual flavours.

I suppose that to many of you Bang Bang Chicken is as familiar as Gong Bao/Kung Pao Chicken. To me, however, it has only recalled a vaguely Asian dish, but nothing else. For those, who, like me, have never seen this famous dish, it’s composed of boiled cold chicken, torn into pieces and dressed with a very particular sauce. If one takes into consideration the onion or/and the cucumber the chicken is served with, the dish might be called a chicken salad.

The words “bang bang” come from the wooden cudgel (“bang” in Mandarin) used to “beat” the cooked chicken so that its fibers  loosen and it becomes easier to be torn into pieces. A very similar dish is  called “Strange-Flavour Chicken (Guai wei ji si) due to the unusual combination of the sauce flavours (salty, sweet, sour, nutty, hot, numbing). The difference between these two Sichuan dishes is minimal.  According to the chefs cited by Fuchsia Dunlop, Bang Bang Chicken should be more “hot and numbing” than its close cousin. Otherwise, the basic ingredients and the method remain identical.

I took out the chicken breasts and thought I would prepare a quick lunch. Alas, the preparation is not as quick as it seems or looks. First the chicken needs to be boiled and slowly cooled. The Sichuan pepper, sesame seeds or peanuts need to be toasted (although the former two ingredients are very handy in other Sichuanese dishes and can be prepared in bigger amounts). Onions need to be soaked in water and cucumbers salted for at least 20 minutes… The time and effort were certainly worth it because the dish is a pure delight and the strange-flavour sauce makes the first bite an unforgettable experience.

Even though I kept the sauce as genuine as I could, I must confess a slight modification concerning the chicken preparation. First of all, instead of cooking the whole bird, I used two skinless breasts found in the freezer (thus the meat didn’t need any beating). I have also slightly modified the boiling liquid, using a cube of chicken stock with fresh ginger. If you want to see the original recipe, I strongly advise buying Fuchsia Dunlop’s book. It’s a rare jewel.

I have also prepared several other recipes from the Sichuan Cookery; all turned out excellent. Until now I have posted:

Steamed Aubergine with Chili Sauce

Gong Bao (Kung Pao) Chicken


The author says Bang Bang Chicken is served either on a layer of spring onions or on cucumbers. I have dressed mine on spring onions, putting cucumbers on a separate plate. At the table I combined everything in a bowl creating a very refreshing light summer salad.

Apparently dark sesame paste is the best choice for this dish. The author suggests however tahini or any other standard sesame paste as a substitute. I was glad to use light, organic sesame paste that has been sitting in my fridge for ages.

The chicken can be cooked one day before and dressed just before the meal.

If you have some leftover chicken, boiled in stock, steamed or prepared in any other, rather neutrally tasting way, this dish is  an original way to use it.

Preparation: 2 hours (or 30 minutes if you have already boiled and cooled the chicken)

Ingredients (serves two as a main dish, with rice or bread and some vegetables; serves 3-4 as a starter):

2 chicken breasts (or half of a small chicken weighing about 400 g/0,9 lb) + 1 litre (about 4 cups) chicken stock + 2,5 cm (1 in) ginger


1  flat tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon light soy sauce


1 tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar (black Chinese vinegar)

3 tablespoons sesame paste (the best one is dark Chinese sesame paste, but tahini or any other sesame paste is a good substitute)

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons chili oil with chili flakes (I used my home-made Taberu Rayu)

1 teaspoon toasted and ground Sichuan pepper (see below)

a couple of teaspoons toasted sesame seeds or unsalted toasted peanuts, roughly crushed (I have chosen the peanuts) (also see below)

6 spring onions (only white parts) or/and 1 long cucumber

First prepare the chicken. Bring the stock to the boil.

Cut the ginger into thick slices and crush them with the handle of your knife.

Add the ginger and the chicken (or chicken breasts) to the boiling stock.

Cook for 15 minutes (breasts) or 30 minutes (half-chicken). Cover with a lid and let it stand for another 15 minutes.

Let the chicken cool down, skin it and then shred the meat into slivers with your fingers. Make sure there are no bones in your shredded slivers.

Toast the sesame seeds or peanuts in a dry frying pan, on medium heat, until they are golden.

Put the sesame seeds aside. Crush the peanuts roughly with the bottom of a bowl or the handle of a big knife.

Toast the Sichuan peppercorns in a dry frying pan, on medium heat, until they start giving off a very strong smell but don’t let them burn. Put them into a coffee grinder or a small food processor (the one for baby food is perfect) and grind them.

Put aside.

If using the cucumber, cut it into thin strips (similar in size and form to chicken slivers), sprinkle it with salt and put aside for about 20 minutes.

Wash off the salt and drain the cucumber.

Cut the spring onion into thin strips lengthwise (similar in form and size to the chicken slivers) and put them into a bowl of cold water for at least 15 minutes. Drain them.

Prepare the sauce combining all the ingredients.

Pile either the onions or the cucumber in the middle of a plate.

Place the chicken slivers on top of the onions or cucumber.

Pour the sauce over the chicken.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds or peanuts.






50 Replies to “Bang Bang Chicken, Strange-Flavour Chicken, or Cold Chicken with Sauce”

  1. My mouth is watering looking at the dish especially with the succulent sauce. I’ve heard of the name before but didn’t pay attention until now that you posted it. Thank you for explaining the meaning of the fun-sounding name. Have a nice weekend, Sissi! 🙂

    ~ ray ~

  2. Another very intriguing recipe, Sissi. It sounds delicious as well as the other ones you’ve posted recently. But I have to remain strong and go to another part of the world … Hungary.

    I WILL be making some Hungarian dishes before much longer but will return to make some Chinese dishes as soon as I can. So many pantry items to buy first however. 🙂

    1. Thank you, A_Boleyn. There are too many interesting world cuisines and life is too short to try all the dishes we would like to… I’m looking forward to see your Hungarian exploits! I was lucky the only thing I had to buy was fermented chili sauce (there is something else though I have to buy, I don’t remember, but I saw it in several recipes and I cannot make them…).

  3. Wooooooo Sissi, the sauce sounds so good! I don’t remember ever eating this, though definitely have heard of it, since the name is so funny and one really don’t know what to expect before taking the first bite!

    Lately I have been sprinkling sesame seeds onto some of my dishes, they really make things look prettier, and add a little texture also taste to finish things off. Everytime I pull the jar of sesame seeds out I think of you and your love of these little seeds, it puts a smile on my face!

    1. Thank you very much, Jeno. I was sure everyone knew Bang Bang Chicken apart from me. You are so sweet thinking about me and my passion for sesame seeds 🙂 Here exceptionally I have put only peanuts instead of sesame seeds (but there was sesame paste and oil in the sauce).

  4. With a starter like Bang! Bang! in my inbox and had to rush over ;-).

    What a great looking dish Sissi – you’re introducing new elements in your photography… I love it! – this recipe remind me a bit of your delightful shoyu chicken sauce (and you know how I feel about that one!) – but the sesame is a whole new twist here and I cannot wait to try it. I love this kind of food – layered salad, protein and a succulent sauce…. the Szechuan touch is perfect – bring on the heat 🙂 (looks so much more appetizing than what I have planned for dinner ce soir… ;-)).

    1. Kelly, thank you very much for the compliments. You are right: the sauce here is sticky and strong, like in shoyu chicken (I’m still thrilled you love it!). It has however such a complex unequaled taste… You should try it one day.
      I loved this dish also because as you say it’s a refreshing salad, with proteins, healthy sesame oil (I hope it’s healthy… because I like it a lot) and yet very filling. Thank you for saying it’s appetising. I was worried it would look like a strange heap of something difficult to indentify 😉

  5. This sounds interesting and delicious. There are so many interesting named dishes – drunken chicken etc. Before I make this one I will be making kung pao chicken (its in the queue)
    “thus I didn’t need any banging” – glad your bangless bangless chicken turned out super:)

    1. Thank you Mr. Three-Cookies. Interesting and/or funny names make the dish choice easier 🙂
      Thank you, I have just corrected the sentence. It didn’t make sense. You are the only one who noticed, as always.

  6. This does make a delightful first course on a summer Sunday serving more Western style and, methinks, the ‘work’ load is not nearly as onerous as it seems 🙂 ! I don’t know that I would particulalry go the ‘tahini way’: the flavours are different – tahini, to me, belongs to dishes thousands of kilometres to the West 🙂 !

    1. Thank you so much, Eha. As for tahini, I’m ignorant about the cookery of this part of the world, but isn’t it just simple sesame paste? Light sesame paste from France I used here and light sesame paste made in Japan were for me practically identical (apart from the price: the Japanese was 3 or 4x more expensive). Unless there is a special sesame paste (like the dark toasted one that the author suggests as the “genuine”), I think it probably doesn’t make much difference…

      1. heya, it is pretty much the same thing! sesame is popular in both asian and middle eastern cookery, so it’s just a matter of the same product by 2 different names I would say! If you can get hold of black sesame though, the taste is quite different, far more fragrant and bittersweet. I just toast my own and grind them to a paste in the blender (:

        1. Thank you, Shuhan. It seems that black sesame paste is much more expensive than the light one, so since I have lots of black sesame seeds in stock, I will prepare it myself now! (Moreover it will save my space in the fridge where I have lots of jars I only take out once in a while). Do you add any oil? Can you keep it for a long time?

              1. Glad I started this as have learnt quite a bit from Shuhan myself! Thanks! The difference in taste and depth which Shuhan mentions is what I meant by my comment: I cook a lot of Lebanse and Egyptian dishes, but the tahini there has a much milder flavour!!

                1. Hi, Eha. I think you have misunderstood me and Shuhan. Shuhan was just confirming that is doesn’t matter whether you use tahini, Chinese light sesame paste or (like I was saying) French or Japanese light sesame paste because they are more or less the same. The modification in this dish would be using light sesame paste, but not using tahini because it is probably the same as the Chinese sesame paste. This is why the author suggests tahini or any other light sesame paste.
                  Black sesame paste Shuhan mentions is not what is used in Sichuanese cuisine and not what the author suggests. She says the Sichuanese sesame paste has a “”mushroom-brown colour” and “nutty” flavour; black sesame paste has a black colour (at least the ones I have seen) and I wouldn’t call the taste nutty, so I suppose the Sichuanese one is made with white sesame seeds, but maybe more toasted… Therefore, since the author suggests only light sesame paste (Chinese or from any part of the world), I choose this one for Sichuanese dishes (unless I find the genuine Sichuanese paste which I doubt I will, at least in Switzerland).

                  1. By the way, Fuchsia Dunlop mentions “dark tahini” as a better substitute than light tahini, so does it mean there is also a darker version of tahini?

                    1. I have just checked: dark tahini is made simply with unhulled seeds. It’s funny because this is exactly what I used here (my French organic sesame paste is made with unhulled seeds).

  7. This does indeed sound like a tasty summer lunch, Sissy. I too have been lured unsuspectingly into ‘easy’ recipes that take far too long to prepare and leave us snacking aimlessly as the dish is finishing. I love the idea of using left over chicken, and I plan to have quite a bit from Sunday when I am going to roast a whole bird on the BBQ. This recipe will be a great excuse to buy a few unusual ingredients that you often list that has limited me from making it. Thanks again for a lovely dish.
    It’s cooled down in the city quite a bit, but the humidity is still near 100% which means I am reluctant to use the oven or stove inside. Fortunately the BBQ is a good alternative.

    1. Thank you very much, Eva. Finally now that I have made it it seems easier, but toasting peanuts and Sichuan peppercorn + grinding the pepper and crushing the peanuts was what made it longer and a bit fussy. Now I have ready to use ground toasted Sichuan pepper, so I will only have peanuts to take care of. I hope you can find the necessary ingredients and taste this delicious chicken dish. Good luck!

      1. Fully intending to make this for dinner one night this week, I went out to our village to pick up the black sesame paste (only found the white stuff) and the black Chinese vinegar which I was unsuccessful finding. Can you recommend an alternative to it?

        1. Hi, Eva. You shouldn’t buy black sesame paste. We have been discussing black sesame paste with Shuhan and Eha, but I think it might be too strong and overwhelming in this combination. White sesame paste is a very good substitute to the dark Sichuanese sesame paste (according to F. Dunlop, so luckily you haven’t found the black one 😉 I think the Sichuanese sesame paste is made with toasted sesame seeds, thus it’s darker, but definitely not black. You will be able to use the white one in many other dishes too, so definitely buy the white one.
          As for the black Chinese vinegar, I have checked on internet and the advised alternative is balsamic vinegar. It’s definitely sweeter, so maybe you can skip the sugar in the recipe? I hope it will work. I think I would use malt vinegar instead of the black Chinese one, but strangely I haven’t found it as an advised substitute. If you have peanuts, do try toasting them, crushing and sprinkling over the dish. I have had this dish yesterday once more, but without peanuts and even though I hardly ever eat peanuts, I missed them a lot there. Good luck! I hope you will like this very strange sauce.

  8. How can one NOT like something called “Bang-Bang….”? 🙂 After pounding the cooked chicken, I bet it just melts in your mouth. You certainly did a good sell so I’ll have to mark this one to try soon. I can just smell the sesame aroma coming off the dish! YUM!

  9. That’s cute! Your chicken didn’t get bang-banged! And the only song that comes to mind for me is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! LOL!!! How about calling it “No Bang Bang Chicken”? 😀
    It looks very interesting. And Sichuan cuisine to me is all about clearing the sinuses anyway so “hot and numbing” isn’t too surprising.

  10. Sissi, Haha, such a cute post, but I wondered which bang bang you sang while beat your chicken. Not Dalida [you were not even born], certainly not the Disney flick with Julie Andrews, so it’s must K’naan (My Baby Shot Me Down). Love it!

    1. Thank you very much, Zsuzsa. You are the best! You are the only one who guessed (and one of the rare who has paid attention…). It’s My Baby Shot Me Down, but I thought it was sung by Nancy Sinatra… Anyway, I first heard it in Kill Bill (Tarantino’s film).
      And you know what? I love Dalida! I have her “best of” collection (several DVDs) and I find it really moving. Best to listen to at the end of the party when everyone has drunk a lot 😉

  11. You know Sissi, I really love ur passion for cooking. I love to cook but somehow I always end up cooking dishes that I have eaten before or I like, I keep buying books getting inspired but it really take a lot for me to try something which I have no clue about…
    This dish looks wonderful, that sauce.. Delicious….

    1. Thank you so much, Reem for all the kind words. I’m trying to cook as much as I can from cookery books I have, but not as much as I would like to. Sometimes I spend one month without touching any of them. I feel it’s by stages…

  12. At first, I was thinking…bam, bam…as in chef Emeril’s way. Everything was a BAM…now its a bang, bang, so funny, but cute, I must admit!
    I love your Sichuan inspired dish, and of course the hotter, the better! I’m one of those strange people that just love spices, hot, hot, hot…Oh, there’s a song about that!

    Light, tasty, colorful, and very inviting, Sissi. You never cease to inspire me:) xo

    1. Thank you very much, Elisabeth. I also love hot dishes (this one isn’t actually very hot, especially compared to Kung Pao, but there is some chili oil and most of all the numbing Sichuan pepper).

  13. Hahaha, I’m sorry to say I find the name of the dish is so funny Sissi – “Bang Bang Chicken”, but I had no idea that’s where the name of the dish came from – thanks for the education Sissi 😀

    It looks like a very tasty dish Sissi – I’ve really been enjoying your Szechuanese recipes!

    1. Thank you, Charles. This is why I have chosen to cook it. I am glad I did because I was sure I was one of the few who never had this dish (like Kung Pao) and now I see most of my visitors haven’t tasted it either.

  14. Chicken ban ban!!! Gosh I haven’t had this for many years now. I am so craving for it looking at your delicious pictures!!! Oh my gosh it’s so long ago that I had this, I forget how we eat this… I think we eat with noodles… but not 100% sure. Oishisoooo!!!

    1. Thank you very much, Nami. You are I think the first person who knows this dish (I mean who has eaten it!). Incredible! I liked it a lot with crunchy baguette with butter.

  15. Dear Sissi,

    I love this dish especially served cold in summer and would also use chicken breast because of its stringy texture and roasted sesame seeds. A variation to this dish that I love is to use shredded carrots, celery and crunchy jelly fish although I’m not sure if you can get it in Europe. It is a classic Chinese dish that is usually served cold. I have included the recipe although the presentation need not be in the mould that we used this recipe as part of a competition.

    1. Hi, Chopinand. Thank you for the carrots and celery idea. It was the first time I had it (like many Asian dishes which alas are either not palatable here or not available) and I was surprised that I loved it with peanuts (I usually prefer sesame seeds everywhere). I remember the competition! Thank you for reminding me. I must check if I can buy jellyfish jelly. It sounds intriguing.

  16. I’ve heard and eaten bang bang chicken before but I’ve never heard of strange flavoured one before!! haha and I find that really cute! I must be crazy! I know bang bang chicken is usually made with sesame paste but do you think it’ll be nice with peanut butter too? I certainly think so! but Ok, it might just be me letting my obsession with peanut butter get the better of me. 😛

    1. Hi, Sylvia. I think from the point of view of texture it will be similar, but this sauce has a very distinct sesame flavour, so it wouldn’t be the same. Of course I imagine peanut butter might create a flavoursome result. Just different.

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