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The making of spicy Sichuan food in Singapore

How Cooking a Simple Dish Can Turn You into a Better Chef

Famed for its searing tongue-numbing properties, Chong Qing diced chicken with dried chilli (La Zi Ji or 辣子鸡) appears to be a simple dish with deep-fried ingredients. 

Unless you get your fundamentals right, however, you will not achieve the perfection this dish demands.

From the kitchen of Executive Sichuan Chef Zeng Feng

Si Chuan Dou Hua (四川豆花) Restaurant Executive Sichuan Chef Zeng Feng has been with the restaurant for over 20 years since its inception in 1996. Despite spending over two decades living in Singapore with his family, the mild-mannered Chengdu native still loves his local cuisine.

When it comes to the kitchen, Chef Zeng believes time and experience—not just talent—are the essential ingredients to becoming a great chef.

As he prepares the signature dish, he shares the lessons that have guided his career, earning him the accolade of “National Advanced-Grade Master Chef” from the Chinese government.

Even humble ingredients can become great masterpieces

The short list of ingredients for the La Zi Ji dish are easily available, and include chicken thighs, dried chilli, peppercorns, and spring onions.

Cooking always starts with the basics, says Chef Zeng. As with many other aspects of life, you cannot jump right into the deep end without learning the fundamentals of what works and what does not.

Be prepared for all kinds of challenges

Prepare to coat the chicken in cornstarch, Chinese rice wine, and salt with a bowl.

Chef Zeng has every spice and herb at his disposal, but he sometimes gets requests that boggle the mind. The Sichuan-famous La Zi Ji dish is considered spicy by many standards, yet Chef Zeng has met customers who do not flinch a single bit no matter how much chilli he adds according to their request.

In his 20 years working at Si Chuan Dou Hua, he has met all kinds of challenges, including cooking without salt and oil. Despite the numerous accomplishments under his belt,  Chef Zeng embraces new challenges which he believes will sharpen his skills even more.

Don’t be afraid of putting in hard work

Coat the sliced chicken thighs with the cornstarch, Chinese rice wine, and salt.

In Chinese cooking, getting your hands involved is par for the course. Doing so allows you to accurately gauge how each dish should be seasoned and marinated before frying.

Instead of using a blender or automated mixer to batter the chicken, use your hands. Getting hands-on, literally, is the cornerstone of the culinary industry, relates Chef Zeng.

Experiment often: experience will make you better

Fry the chicken in a wok.

Know when to use high, medium, or low heat to get the results you want. Experience maketh a good cook.

Deep-frying chicken thighs may sound easy, but do you know how to achieve a dish with crispy skin which envelops the juicy flesh inside?

Trust your instincts

Chef Zeng fries the diced chicken a second time to create the crispy texture on the exterior that customers love.

Recipes are always handy but, Chef Zeng believes that in the food industry, the repeated trial and error go a longer way than the instructions in a book.

Stay cheerful to enjoy the long road in the culinary world

Chef Zeng starts frying the chilli and Sichuan peppers, both imported directly from China.

The career of a chef is long and tedious, but Chef Zeng has achieved the status of top chef while still looking a good ten years younger than his actual age of 51. He reveals that staying cheerful and being stress-free are the secrets to his youthful looks.

Serve your guests with pride

The spicy chicken, or La Zi Ji, is now ready to be served. The intense red of the chilli and peppery spices may look scary, but their taste is second to none.

Taste the recipe for yourself at Si Chuan Dou Hua

Address: Si Chuan Dou Hua Restaurant, PARKROYAL on Beach Road
7500 Beach Road, Singapore 199591 
Reservation phone number: +65 6505 5722
Opening hours:
 11:30am to 2:30pm (lunch)
2:30pm to 6:00pm (high tea)
6:30pm to 10:30pm (dinner)

Chef Zeng Feng with his signature La Zi Ji dish at Si Chuan Dou Hua Restaurant.

Si Chuan Dou Hua Restaurant’s Recipe for Chong Qing Diced Chicken with Dried Chilli

Ingredients:

Chicken thigh, 150 grams
Dried chilli, 50 grams
Peppercorn, 5 grams
Garlic, 10 grams
Ginger, 5 grams
Green onion sliced into sections, 10 grams
Sesame oil, 3 grams
Chinese rice wine, 5 grams
Chicken powder, 5 grams
Dark soya sauce, 20 grams
Cornstarch, small amount

Instructions:

1. Chop up dried chilli and chicken thigh into pieces approximately 1 cm in length. Dice the garlic and ginger, and cut the onion into sections.

2. Use salt, Chinese rice wine, and a small amount of cornstarch to marinate the chicken.

3. Heat pan with oil to about 200 degrees Celsius, before adding the marinated chicken to deep-fry till golden brown. Remove from pan thereafter.

4. Place a suitable amount of dark soya sauce, before adding in dried chilli and peppercorn to fry till fragrant. Next, add in the deep-fried chicken.

5. Fry till fragrant, and add in seasoning. Thereafter, place on a plate and add sesame seed. Ready to serve.

主材料:

鸡腿肉, 150 克
干辣椒, 50 克
花椒, 5 克
蒜, 10 克
姜, 5 克
葱节, 10 克
麻油, 3 克
花雕酒, 5 克
鸡精粉, 5 克
特制老抽, 20 克
玉蜀粉, 少许

做法:

1. 干辣椒切 1cm 节、鸡腿肉切 1cm 左右、姜、蒜切丁、葱切节。

2. 鸡丁用盐、花雕酒、少量玉蜀粉腌制备用。

3. 锅内油烧至 200 度左右, 下入腌制好的鸡丁炸至金黄色捞出。

4. 锅内放入适量特制老抽,下入干辣椒、花椒炒香味。下入炸好鸡丁及辅料。

5. 炒香、加入调味料起锅潵上芝麻装盘即成。

Other Singapore Guides To Explore

Korean Food
Getting in touch with Singapore's Nature
Getting in touch with Singapore's Nature
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