Coat chicken cubes in batter, fry or bake, toss with pineapple chunks and sweet chili sauce, and you’ve got sweet chili pineapple chicken. Easy, right? There are a few things, however, to make your version of sweet chili pineapple chicken better than others.
First, what’s in the batter that coats the chicken? Will it stay crisp after the chicken is tossed in sweet chili sauce?
Second, what sweet chili sauce is best? Are the ones on the grocery shelf okay?
Third, fresh or canned pineapple?
Okay. In this 10-minute sweet chili pineapple chicken recipe, the batter is made with a combination of rice flour and corn starch. Why? What’s wrong with all-purpose flour? Gluten. That’s what makes bread chewy. And you don’t want your chicken batter chewy — you want it crisp! Tapioca, corn or potato starch are good choices but starch is so tricky to mix with water because the starch keeps sinking to the bottom. Solution? Make the batter with rice flour — it is gluten-free — mix in the chicken then add the starch for added crisp.
Grocery bought sweet chili sauce can be a hit-and-miss affair. Most are thickened with starch which get lumpy as the cooked dish cools. I use homemade sweet chili sauce. It is thick because of reduction rather than the addition of starch.
Fresh or canned pineapple? Seriously, is that even a question? Fresh is always preferable to canned. It tastes better, the texture is better and the juices that get mixed with the sauce add a brighter note to the sweet chili pineapple chicken. BUT. Yes, there is a but. The level of sweetness of fresh pineapple varies from fruit to fruit. A pineapple that has not fully ripened will taste less sweet — it can be quite sour, actually — than one that has ripened under ideal conditions. So, if using fresh pineapple in this recipe, taste a piece first. Adjust the level of sweetness of the sweet chili sauce to blend with that of the pineapple.
- 1 chicken breast deboned (or 2 chicken breast fillets)
- cayenne powder
- 3/4 cup rice flour mixed with 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup tapioca or corn or potato starch
- cooking oil for frying
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
- 2 bird's eye chilies finely chopped
- 1 and 1/2 cup pineapple chunks
- 1 large bell pepper cut into wedges
- 1 cup sweet chili sauce
Wipe the chicken breast fillets with paper towels. Cut into one-inch cubes. Place in a bowl. Add half a teaspoon of salt, a quarter teaspoon of pepper and a quarter teaspoon of cayenne powder. Mix well. Set aside.
Make the batter. To the rice flour and water mixture, add half a teaspoon of salt, a quarter teaspoon of pepper and a quarter teaspoon of cayenne powder.
Add the batter to the chicken. Mix well. Add the starch. Mix well again. There shouldn't be any loose batter at the bottom of the bowl.
In a wok or frying pan, heat enough cooking oil to reach a depth of at least two inches. Heat until fine wisps of smoke float on the surface.
Drop the battered chicken into the hot oil, one piece at a time to make sure that they stay separate from each other. Cook for about two minutes or until golden brown. Depending on how large your wok or frying pan is, you may have to do this step in batches.
Scoop out the chicken cubes and drain on a rack or a stack of paper towels.
Pour off the oil from the wok or frying pan leaving only about a tablespoonful.
Reheat the oil. Saute the garlic, ginger and chilies for about a minute. Throw in the bell peppers. Stir fry for half a minute. Add the pineapple chunks and cook for another half a minute.
Add the cooked chicken to the pan. Pour in the sweet chili sauce. Toss to coat every piece of chicken, bell pepper and pineapple with the sauce.
Serve the sweet chili pineapple chicken at once. We like it with rice.