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  • Writer's pictureTina Brand

Finders Keepers: Charmaine Solomon's Szechuan Fried Chicken

I am a complete sucker for fried chicken. Any version: Southern, Korean, Japanese, in a burger, with a salad, on top of hot chips, or even with waffles and maple syrup.

Michael found this recipe in our Charmaine Solomon 'cooking bible' a hundred years ago one night, when we sat slumped exhausted after a day of parenting two energetic little ones. What to cook for dinner? ( long before the time of Uber Eats) Charmaine's chilli chicken filled our kitchen with pungent chilli 'wok hey' and revived us for the delicious quick meal. What an amazing, happy discovery!

This is a dish we still cook now, a die hard favourite which should be shared if you don't already know it. Thank you Charmaine Solomon; your book The Complete Asian Cookbook (1976) laid the foundation for all my cooking forays.


500g chicken breasts

4 tablespoons cornflour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon five spice powder

1/2 cup chicken stock

2 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon light soy sauce

1 teaspoon vinegar

2 teaspoons Chinese cooking wine

extra 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons corn flour

1 tablespoon cold water

1/2 cup oil for frying

15 dried red chillies, seeded

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped

4 spring onions, chopped into 5 cm lengths


Bone chicken breasts and cut into bite sized pieces.

Mix cornflour, salt and five spice powder and toss the chicken in this mixture.

Mix stock, sugar, salt, sesame oil, vinegar, wine, five spice powder and pepper.

In a small bowl dilute the corn flour in the cold water.

Heat the oil in a wok and when very hot, add the chicken pieces a third at a time and fry on high heat tossing continually until meat is browned evenly.

Drain each batch on kitchen paper.

Pour off most of the oil, but keep about two tablespoons in the wok to now add the chilli, garlic and ginger. Fry till ginger and garlic are golden and dried chilli turn dark.

Add spring onion, toss for a few seconds and then add the stock mixture, bringing to boil.

Add the cornflour mix and stir till it thickens.

Add the chicken, and toss to heat through.

Serve immediately with white rice.


Over the years, I've tweaked this recipe a little to suit us:

I tend to use thigh cutlets, and cut each one into two or three pieces.

I add more spring onions than the recipe calls for- up to half a bunch more. You could substitute the spring onions for chopped kai lan, or broccolini.

In my version, I tend to use fewer chillis: more like 8-10. I seed all but about three chillis for some spicy punch.

Other fine fried chicken destinations:

In Los Angeles:

Howlin' Ray's on N Broadway for Southern fried.

In New York:

Bonchon on 5th Aveune for Korean

In London:

Kricket Brixton for Kerala style fried chicken

In Sydney:

Ayam Goreng 99 for Indo chicken

In Singapore:

Chicken Up for more Korean fried chicken


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