Seasoned with cayenne, Sichuan peppercorns and black pepper, this 3-pepper fried chicken has ultra crispy seasoned crust studded with fennel seeds.
But it isn’t just in the crust where the flavors are—the flavors go all the way to the innermost portion of the chicken thighs. I’m not a believer in seasoning in the chicken just before frying. I believe in rubbing them with spices the day before, letting the chicken pieces sit in the fridge overnight then dredging them in seasoned flour before going into the frying pan.
I know that there are cooks who season chicken just before frying. It just doesn’t work. Not for me anyway. No amount of gravy or dipping sauce will make up for the lack of flavor in the meat.
And it isn’t how many different spices and seasonings you rub on the chicken that really matters. The chicken may be seasoned simply with just salt and pepper. What is essential is giving the meat time to soak up the flavors. Half an hour will do if you’re working with strips of chicken fillet. But with bone-inch chicken thighs, overnight is best.
Can this 3-pepper fried chicken be cooked with cuts other then thighs? Drumsticks and wings are good too. Breast? Sure! I’m not a fan of white meat but, if cooked properly, chicken breast meat can be moist and tasty too.
Can this dish be cooked in the oven? Yes. But you’ll have to drizzle or spray oil on the floured chicken pieces before they go into the oven. Otherwise, the crust won’t turn crisp. This is especially true if the chicken skin is not so fatty. It’s the rendered fat from the chicken skin that will turn the flour into a crisp coating. If there’s not enough fat, you’ll need to intervene and coat the flour with oil.
- 6 large chicken thighs skin on and bone in, 700 to 800 grams total weight
For the spice rub
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
For the coating
To cook the chicken
- 4 to 6 cups cooking oil for deep frying
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels. Place in a bowl.
- Whisk together all the ingredients for the dry rub. Add to the chicken and mix well.
- Cover the bowl. Marinate the chicken in the fridge for at least six hours (overnight is best).
- Using a food processor or a mortar and pestle, grind the ingredients for the coating excluding the flour and starch. Do NOT grind too finely. Visible specks of the individual spices, especially the Sichuan peppercorns and fennel seeds, add better texture to the coating.
- Whisk the flour and starch in a bowl. Add the ground spices. Stir to blend evenly.
- Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan to 350F.
- Dredge each chicken thigh in the seasoned flour, dip in the beaten eggs, then dredge in the flour a second time. Shake off the excess.
- Fry the chicken in the hot oil for eight to 10 minutes until cooked through and the coating is crisp. If your frying pan is rather small, fry the chicken in batches to avoid the temperature of the oil from dropping.
- Drain the 3-pepper fried chicken on a stack of kitchen paper to get rid of excess oil. Serve at once.
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