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The Sichuan peppercorn is known for the numbing ‘ma la’ feeling that is present in many Chinese dishes. Here’s how to incorporate it with chicken to make this yummy dish that’s actually not too spicy, angry-looking chillies aside. For this recipe, look out for chillies called “chao tian jiao”, Chinese for “facing heaven”, as they’re sweeter, more aromatic and not as spicy as they look.


  • 800 g chicken, cut into bite-size pieces (5 cm x 5 cm)
  • 3 tbsps Chinese rice wine
  • 1 tbsp five-spice powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground Sichuan peppercorn
  • 2 tbsps light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsps cornflour
  • 400 ml cooking oil
  • 20 g ginger, sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves (30 g), sliced
  • 80 g Sichuan dried chillies, rinsed and dried
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 flat tbsp of ground Sichuan peppercorn
  • 2 tsps sugar
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 stalk of spring onion, finely sliced

Place chicken in bowl. Add Chinese rice wine, five-spice powder, ground cumin and 1 tsp ground Sichuan peppercorn. Mix.


Add in light soy sauce, sesame oil and cornflour. Mix well.


Cover bowl with cling wrap and place in fridge to marinate for at least 30 mins. Remove chicken from fridge 15 mins before deep-frying.


In a wok or deep frying pan, heat cooking oil over medium heat. Deep-fry the chicken in batches of six or seven pieces for 5 mins until cooked through and golden brown.


Place on kitchen paper to drain excess oil. Set aside.


Heat remaining oil in wok and adjust heat to medium-low. Place ginger slices in wok and deep-fry for a minute then add the garlic slices. Deep-fry for 30 secs and add the Sichuan chillies.


Deep-fry for a minute to two before removing from wok. Place fried chillies, ginger and garlic on kitchen paper to drain excess oil. Set aside.


Set aside 2 tbsps of the fried chilli oil. Discard the rest.


In a clean wok, heat the chilli oil. Fry the chopped garlic for a minute until fragrant. Add chicken and 1 flat tbsp of ground Sichuan pepper.


Stir-fry chicken for 30 secs and add in fried chillies. Stir-fry for another 30 secs.


Add in sugar and light soy sauce. Stir-fry for 30 secs. Garnish with spring onion. Serve immediately.

Chef’s Tips:

  • Do not de-seed the chillis as the seeds contribute to the look, texture and taste of the dish.
  • If you want more flavour and heat, use spicy fermented bean paste, but remember to reduce or omit the soy sauce as the bean paste is fairly salty.
  • It can be difficult to find ground Sichuan peppercorn, but you can get whole Sichuan peppercorns, which are a dark brownish pink, at wet market provisions shops and in the Chinese spice section of certain supermarkets.
  • Lightly toast the Sichuan peppercorns using a frying pan. Once they release their fragrance, use a spice grinder to turn them into a powder.

ABOUT THE CHEF: Hedy Khoo is the columnist for The New Paper’s HED CHEF which features Asian cuisine and recipes. You can follow Hedy on her Instagram account @hedchefhedykhoo for more of her culinary adventures.

Recipe: Hedy Khoo / Photo: The New Paper

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