Sichuanese Chicken Salad with Chilli Oil

chickenchillioilI always like being positively surprised by recipes I don’t expect much from, particularly if they are as simple as this one. You steam or boil a chicken breast, slice it, add some green onion, drizzle it with chilli oil sauce and you obtain a light, cooling summer dish with a spicy kick that completely transforms the delicate white meat. When I took the first bite I couldn’t believe such a complex taste can be obtained in such a short time, with so few ingredients and with hardly any effort.

This cold chicken dish that I have allowed myself to call a salad is another discovery from Sichuan Cookery by Fuchsia Dunlop, a book written with a huge passion for the culinary heritage of this Chinese region and full of fascinating recipes that always give delicious results. Sichuan Cookery contains several cold chicken dishes and I want to try them all this summer, so I simply started with the first on the list. I have slightly changed the amounts, so check her book to read the original recipe. Fuchsia Dunlop’s recipe doesn’t contain lots of oil (I still have reduced the amounts a bit…), but from what I see on internet, this Sichuanese cold chicken is often served literally drowned in oil. If you like this dish more greasy, feel free to adapt the oil sauce’s amount.

TIP: Since my homemade chilli oil (Japanese, but definitely Chinese-inspired Taberu Rayu) is made partly with sesame oil, I have used only chilli oil, but if your hot oil is different, make sure you add some sesame oil too. It makes a huge difference in taste.

If you don’t have chilli oil with sediment, it’s very easy to prepare its simplest version: pour very hot oil (not boiling!) over chilli powder or flakes and let it cool down. The oil with have more taste every day, but you can use it as soon as it is cold.

You can used here either boiled or steamed chicken breast or sliced meat from a whole chicken.

I find this salad very flexible: it is as good served with rice as it is with bread or any carb you choose (cold noodles, tortillas, crêpes…). It works perfectly as a “topping” in a bowl of green salad leaves and as a sandwich filling.

Fuchsia Dunlop says the chicken and onion bits should be equally sized, but as you can see, I haven’t managed to do it.

Since the oil goes immediately down to the bowl’s  bottom and you are left with sediment on top of chicken pieces, I would advise serving this dish on a flat plate or adding oil at the table.

Preparation: 5 minutes

Ingredients (serves one):

1 small chicken breast (boiled or steamed) or the equivalent of parts from a whole chicken, cooled and sliced diagonally

Sauce :

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon sugar (agave syrup or honey)

1 teaspoon chili oil with sediment (but if your oil is without sediment, just use your clear oil)

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (or double the chilli oil amount if it contains sesame oil too)

1 spring onion, cut into bite-sized pieces

Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl stirring until the sugar is well dissolved (if using sugar).

Combine the sauce with the chicken and spring onion and serve.

12 Replies to “Sichuanese Chicken Salad with Chilli Oil”

  1. I’m tempted to make a small bottle of that chili oil. I usually spoon some of the murky stuff in that little bowl on the table (your Taberu Rayu reminds me of it) on my plate when I go out for Chinese food. The cold chicken salad sounds delicious. I don’t like raw onion but green onion are delicious.

    1. Thank you so much, A_Boleyn. It’s very simple and I think if one cooks Chinese/Japanese or Korean from time to time, the ingredients are already in the kitchen. I’m addicted to green onion and chives and grow both on my balcony (chives are easier and quicker to grow though).

  2. The word Sichuan makes my mouth water:)
    This dish reminds me of the Singaporean dish, chicken rice. Its boiled chicken served with chili sauce and rice cooked in stock. Sounds boring/bland but so delicious.
    Someone told me that its good to eat cold food in cold weather, and hot food in hot weather. Hot food makes you sweat, which cools the body down. Sounds logical, but I prefer the other way round. I thought of this when you said salad.
    BTW the link in the second paragraph does now work.

    1. Me too! The dish you talk about sounds delicious to me. Yes, I’ve already heard about hot dishes vs hot weather, but while maybe it’s healthy to sweat, it’s not always welcome (especially if we are not alone at home…). I’ve also heard that only moderately warm beverage quench thirst and tested it: it’s 100% true! It’s better than cold beverages (though there is no refreshment obviously).
      PS Thank you for the link comment. I’ve already fixed it.

  3. Really? That’s all there is to it? Chicken, spring onions and chilli oil? This dish meets my summer meal criteria and has the added bonus of being spicy! I’ve been wanted to make your Quick Chilli and Garlic oil ever since I saw it. Now I have a great excuse! I’ve been buying some great spring onion at the market the past couple of week and have a bunch in the fridge. I already seeing Saturday night’s meal in the making. Thanks Sissi. This is a keeper! PINNED!

    1. Thank you, MJ. Not exactly only chilli oil… well, the chilli oil is THE star here, but there are two or three more ingredients in the sauce, but not too complicated. I hope you will like it. It’s such a simple but perfect summer dish!

  4. I am not at all surprised to read the taste sensation that these simple ingredients gave rise to — I feel this is where you really excel Sissi; using just a few base ingredients to transform the taste experience. I have seen it happen (and tasted it myself) with a number of your recipes. I love that you serve this as a cold salad; it has been so hot here (we went from a cool May to a *hot* June) and while I always appreciate a kick to my food it’s so nice to have the complementary coolness this time of year. Funny too about the green onion. My husband is always delicately requesting green onion when I prepare meals – he finds the freshness and taste they impart irresistible, and I have to agree. I should have planted some in my garden!! next year :). Lovely recipe Sissi.

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. You are so kind and generous with compliments, as always… I plant chives every year and they grow like crazy on my balcony, so I use them all the time and quite often instead of green onions (even in kimchi). I have always loved the taste too. I’m sure green onions from your garden will be delicious and plenty! I really liked this “salad” and hope to discover more dishes including steaming process because some time ago I bought a nice stove top steamer and I love using it.

  5. What a lovely summery dish Sissi, I love all of the fresh flavours and that it’s not complicated at all. I can definitely see this combined with couscous or even quinoa. I didn’t plant chives this year and I’m already regretting it. It’s been raining non-stop for nearly a day so my gardening plans are shot this weekend.

    1. Thanks a lot, Eva. I must make more cold main courses and go beyond my usual salads… Couscous or quinoa sounds great with this dish. You can plant your chives now (or even in a month’s time)! I planted a second batch a week ago and they are already 5cm high! Actually I plant all the herbs in several stages, so that I have them all the time. I love chives and use them so often…

  6. First of all, love the bowl, unique shape and very pretty. I still have a jar of ‘tableru rayu’. I usually put on the rice when I don’t have a time to cook or no desire to cook. Mix with sliced cucumber and chilled in the refrigerator then have it like pickle is nice too. I must to make your homemade one pretty soon.

    1. Thank you so much, Nipponnin. It’s one of my first Japanese bowls and I like it a lot too! My homemade version of taberu rayu is very quick and simplified, but I really like it! (Given the amounts I need, it also saves me a lot of money!).

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