We didn’t mean to be clever by including the phrase “drool-worthy” in the title of this recipe. Indeed, “saliva chicken” is the literal translation of the Chinese name for this chicken dish, “kou shui ji,” also known as Sichuan chicken in chili oil sauce.
An English speaker reading a menu in China might want to turn and run if they see the very Chinglish-y menu translation. After all, bird spit (a.k.a. bird’s nest soup) is a highly prized delicacy in this cuisine.
Don’t fret, though. The name of this dish means “tasty” or “delectable” in English. Someone famous, I read, took one look at this dish and famously declared, “it’s making me drool,” which is how kou shui ji, or saliva chicken, got its new name and fame.
Weird how we come up with names for our meals: Drunken Chicken is flavored primarily with Shaoxing wine. In any case, it’s tasty as all get out!
From my experience, kou shui ji is at its best when the chicken is swimming in a hot and spicy oil that only a seasoned Sichuan-food-lover dares to approach (though it is delicious regardless).
We took the original recipe for mouthwatering chicken and toned down the heat while keeping all the flavorful components. Unlike some, ours also includes sesame paste, which isn’t typically used but greatly enhances the flavor.
For Step 1:
- 3 tbsp. of plain roasted peanuts (finely chopped)
- 1 tbsp. of toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp. of red chili flakes or dried red chilis (seeded and chopped)
- ½ tsp. of salt
- 1/3-1/2 cup of oil
- 3 scallions (cut into large sections)
- 4 slices of ginger
- 5 cloves of garlic (sliced)
- 1 pc. of star anise
- 1 pc. of small cinnamon stick
- 1 1/2 tbsp. of Sichuan peppercorns
For Step 2:
- 2 chicken leg quarters (deboned with skin still on)
- 2 scallions
- 2 slices of ginger
For Step 3:
- 1 tbsp. of sesame paste
- 2 tbsp. of light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. of rice wine vinegar
- ½ tbsp. of sugar
- 3 cloves of garlic (chopped)
- 2 tbsp. of chicken stock
- Get out a medium bowl and set aside the chopped peanuts, roasted sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, and salt. Add the scallions, ginger, garlic, star anise, cinnamon stick, and Sichuan peppercorns to the oil in a pan and cook over low heat. Let the oil absorb the aroma of the aromatics while they slowly brown and wrinkle. Throw out the spices and add the hot oil infused to the peanuts. Give it a good stir, then cover the bowl with a plate to keep the contents from spilling. Get up and leave until everything else is prepared.
- Start by boiling some water with the ginger and scallion (there should be enough water to submerge the chicken completely). It should be brought to a boil, and then the chicken should be added (the water’s boiling point will likely drop once the chicken is dropped in).
- Again, bring the water to a boil, and then, after a minute, cover the pot and remove it from the heat. To poach the chicken slowly, leave it on the stove for 20 minutes. Prepare a small bowl of ice water for the chicken. Take the chicken out of the pot and into the ice bath after 20 minutes, and let it cool completely.
- Cut the chicken into pieces and arrange them on a serving platter.
- Put all of the ingredients for Step 3 into a bowl and mix them. Incorporate the peanut mixture from Step 1 into the new mixture. Douse the chicken with as much as you like. About two-thirds of the mixture went on top of the chicken, and the rest made for a great cold noodle lunch the next day.