In honor of the upcoming Super Bowl, I’m making a Sichuan spin on game day wings. Dry pepper chicken 辣子鸡 (làzi chicken or málà chicken) from 重庆 Chóngqíng is one of the most famous dishes of Sichuan, with succulent chunks of fried chicken covered in dried red chilies and Sichuan peppercorns. Today I’m making my spin on this tastiest of fried chicken dishes using baked chicken wings. We’ll skip the mess of deep frying for an easier but equally tasty version of dry pepper chicken.
Dry pepper chicken comes from Chongqing city in Sichuan province, home of China’s most famous spicy hotpot and the fieriest of flavors. In the long and storied tradition of Chinese cooking, it’s a relative newcomer. But in under 30 years it’s shot to the top of the list of most popular Chinese dishes across China and around the world.
The traditional Sichuan dish is a multi-step process, with marinated chicken pieces (traditionally bone-in but I recommend boneless thighs), double fried till perfectly tender then tossed in a huge pot of chilies, Sichuan peppercorn, ginger, and scallions. We affectionately call it “spicy chicken nuggets”. There’s nothing greater than digging through a huge dish of peppers to find the last tender, crispy bites of spicy chicken.
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It’s too cold to open the windows here in the NYC area, so I’m swapping out the deep frying for an easier, healthier choice: the convection oven. In a convection oven, a fan keeps the air moving around, resulting in a more even and faster cook. Air fryers have been all the rage lately, but I think a convection toaster oven is far more versatile. A good convection toaster oven has a larger capacity and achieves identical results.
The oven in our new home has a convection setting, but we’ve been happy user of Cuisinart toaster ovens for many years. I’ve baked whole pies and roasted chicken in mine, and I’ve always been very happy with the results. If you’re thinking about buying an air fryer, I’d highly recommend getting this Cuisinart Chef’s Convection Toaster Oven instead.
Dry Pepper Chicken Wings: Ingredients
I used “party wings” from Costco for my Sichuan dry pepper baked wings. For extra flavorful chicken, we’re using the traditional marinade for Chongqing lazi chicken, with Shaoxing cooking wine, light and dark soy sauce, and salt. To make sure the marinade all absorbs and coats the wings, I use a small amount of cornstarch. And for extra crispy wings, a dash of baking soda raises pH to reduce the temperature at which the Maillard reaction (delicious browning) occurs.
The seasoning is very traditional for lazi chicken:
- a mix of spicy and fruity dried red peppers
- a mix of Sichuan peppercorns
- toasted sesame seeds
- sesame oil
- red chili oil
I’ve also added some (optional) 郫县豆瓣酱 Pixian broad bean paste, which I introduced in my Authentic Mapo Tofu recipe. It’s not 100% traditional for lazi chicken, but I find that it adds a lovely red color and a touch of umami.
Dry Pepper Chicken Wings: Cooking Instructions
Marinate for flavor
Similar to the marinade technique in these Stir Fried Long Hot Peppers and Pork, this is a dry marinade. In addition to infusing the wings with flavor, the marinade keeps the chicken tender. We’re aiming for crispy on the outside while tender and juicy on the inside.
Pat the wings dry with a paper towel. For ~3lb of wings, toss in marinade of:
- 4 tsp Shaoxing cooking wine 绍兴花雕酒
- 1 tsp dark soy sauce 老抽酱油
- 3 tsp light soy sauce 生抽酱油
- 1/2 tsp salt 盐
- 1/8 tsp ground white pepper 白胡椒粉
Toss continuously until the marinade fully absorbs. At this point, add 1/2 tsp cornstarch 玉米淀粉 and 2 tsp baking powder 泡打粉, tossing again to fully combine.
To allow the marinade to fully absorb and the surface of the chicken to dry out, I recommend air chilling the wings overnight in the refrigerator (8 to 24 hours).
Convection bake for crispiness
After the wings have had time to marinate, give them a quick toss to fully coat any residual marinade. For the crispiest wings, we need to maximize air flow around the wings. There are two main tricks to improve air flow: a fan in the oven (convection) and elevating the wings (baking rack).
Preheat your convection oven to 375°F = 190°C. If you’re using a convection toaster oven, no preheating is necessary because it will heat up very quickly. Set a oven-safe cooling / baking rack on a rimmed sheet tray; the Cuisinart convection oven I linked above includes a perfectly sized broiling pan that’s perfect for this purpose. Lay out the marinated chicken wings on the rack, making sure there’s space between the wings for airflow.
Turn on the convection setting, and bake at 375°F = 190°C for 20 minutes. Remove the wings, flip them over, and lower the oven temperature to 350°F = 175°C for an additional 15 minutes. At this point, the wings are already deliciously crispy, but to really amp up the flavor we need to…
Toss in pepper seasoning for the ultimate spicy Sichuan flavor
While the wings are baking, we’ll prepare the pepper seasoning. Authentic dry pepper chicken 辣子鸡 uses a blend of 3 different dried peppers for a well-rounded blend of pepper flavors. Traditionally we’re aiming for a mountain of bright red peppers, which we’d dig through the find the little nuggets of fried chicken. In the case of these wings, we’ll use the same flavor profile, but without quite as large a heap of peppers.
The traditional three peppers for dry pepper chicken are:
- 小米辣 xiǎomǐlà (aka millet) peppers for spice
- 灯笼椒 (dēng lóng jiāo) mini bell peppers for fruity sweetness
- 干红辣椒 ordinary dried red peppers for a moderate pepper flavor.
I used ~15 xiaomila, ~25 dried red peppers, and an equal volume of sweet peppers. Depending on your spice tolerance, you can replace some of the spicy peppers with sweet peppers. Similar to my Sichuan Spicy Boiled Fish 水煮鱼 method, we’ll soak the dried peppers in a little warm water to keep them from burning. Cut the peppers into ~1/2 inch (1 cm) segments with kitchen shears.
In a wok on medium-low heat, add in 2 Tbsp of cooking oil and 1/2 tsp of Pixian broad bean chili paste 郫县豆瓣酱. Fry the paste until the chili oil is fully rendered from the broad bean paste; the oil will become bright red. At this point, add in 1 tsp each of red Sichuan peppercorn and green Sichuan peppercorn 青花椒 (or use all regular red Sichuan peppercorns), 5 slices of ginger, and 2 cloves of sliced garlic. Fry until the aromatics are fragrant, then add in the baked chicken wings on medium-high heat. We’ll finish with a sprinkle of sugar and Chinkiang vinegar to bring out the umami, and garnish with toasted sesame seeds, chopped scallions or cilantro, sesame oil, and chili oil.
Beer & Wine Pairing
Tröegs Perpetual IPA (7.5% ABV, 85 IBU), serve at 4-8°C/40-45°F
Beer and buffalo wings is a classic, and along that vein I love a crisp, hoppy IPA. The bitterness is the perfect contrast to these spicy Sichuan dry pepper wings. I’m partial to a classic from my hometown brewery Tröegs Perpetual IPA.
For a wine pairing, these wings are surprisingly versatile. We could go with the classic Sichuan málà pairing with Alsatian gewürztraminer. Or for a festive and classy afternoon snack, I’d pair these wings with a side of Sichuan dry fried green beans 干煸四季豆, a bowl of roasted peanuts, and a bottle of crémant rosé.
Did you try this dish?
Once you’ve made this once, you may never go back to frying wings. This really is dry pepper chicken perfection in a healthier, less messy chicken wing package! If you enjoyed this recipe, please share with our hashtag #thericelover and tag us on Instagram @thericeloverblog. And as always, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Sichuan (Chongqing) dry pepper baked chicken wings 重庆辣子烤鸡翅
- wok or 3qt+ stir fry pan and wok spoon
- sheet try and oven-safe cooling/baking rack
- convection toaster oven, convection oven, or air fryer
- 3 lb chicken wings "party wings" 鸡小翅，3斤
- 2 Tbsp cooking oil like canola, avocado, or vegetable oil 菜籽油或玉米油，30克
- ½ tsp
Pixian douban (chili broad bean paste)郫县豆瓣酱，½茶勺
Xiaomila (millet) pepper干小米辣椒，15颗
dried red chili干红辣椒，25颗
- 2 handfuls
dried red bell peppersor other fruity, mild pepper 干灯笼椒，1碗
- 5 slices ginger root 生姜，5片
- 2 cloves garlic sliced 大蒜，2颗切片
- ½ tsp
Chinese black (Chinkiang) vinegar镇江香醋，3克
- ¼ tsp granulated sugar 白糖，1克
- ½ tsp
- 1½ tsp
chili oiloptional 辣椒油，5-10克（可免）
- 3 scallions 葱花，3根
- 1 small bunch cilantro chopped (optional) 香菜，一小把切碎
- 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds 熟芝麻，适量
- Pat the chicken wings dry with a paper towel.用厨房纸将小鸡翅多余水分查干。
- Add the dried chicken wings and all marinade ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Toss well to combine so all the marinade is fully absorbed.将鸡翅和所有的腌料抓匀。在此要搅拌至所有水分被鸡翅吸收。
- Let the chicken wings marinate over night in the refrigerator (10-24 hours).将鸡翅在冰箱冷却，腌制10至24小时。
- Preheat the convection oven to 375°F = 190°C. Toss the wings again so that any liquid reabsorbs. Lay out the wings on the
baking rackover a rimmed baking sheet, making sure there's space in between for air flow. Bake on the convection setting for 20 minutes.对流式烤箱预热至190°。再次将鸡翅抓匀。把凉架（baking rack) 放在烤盘，把鸡翅摆在凉架上。注意鸡翅之间要留充分空间让蒸汽散发。鸡翅放入烤箱，烤20分钟
- Remove the wings from the oven and reduce the temperature to 350°F = 175°C. Flip the wings over on the baking rack and return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes.烤盘取出，把烤箱温度降至175°。将鸡翅在凉架上反面，再考15分钟。
- While the wings are baking, soak the 3 types of peppers in warm water for 10 minutes. Drain and cut the peppers into ~½“ = 1cm segments. Remove the baked wings from the oven and set aside.3种辣椒拿温水泡发10分钟，以免过油时烧焦。泡发后剪成1厘米小段。
- To prepare the seasoning, heat a wok over medium-low heat and add the cooking oil. Add the pixian broad bean paste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chili oil is rendered and the oil in the pan is red.油锅烧至4成热，加入郫县豆瓣酱，炒出红油。
- Add the ginger, scallion whites, Sichuan pepercorns, and peppers, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Saute until aromatic.火候保持中小火，加入干辣椒段，青红花椒，姜片，葱白。不停翻炒，煸香。
- Turn the heat up to medium-high. Add in the chicken wings and sliced garlic, tossing continuously until the wings are fully coated ~30 seconds). Turn the heat back down to medium-low. Add the Chinkiang vinegar down the side of the wok, and sprinkle sugar and sesame oil on top. Toss to combine, then turn off the heat.转大火，加入烤好的鸡翅和蒜片，翻炒均匀（约30秒）。转小火，加入白糖和麻油。香醋从锅边淋入，翻炒均匀即可关火。
- Garnish with scallions and/or cilantro, chili oil (optional), and sesame seeds.装盘，淋上少许辣椒油。撒上葱花，香菜，和熟芝麻。
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