Over the weekend, I cooked the last batch of chicken fillets from the freezer to make these sticky spicy chicken fingers. The flavors are more Thai than anything else although the cooking method is definitely Chinese.
I don’t know when our next chicken dinner will be. It is possible that the price of chicken will go up due to a shortage in supply after bird flu struck a town in Pampanga in Central Luzon. According to one report, a farm owner lost 38,000 birds but claimed neither he—nor his veterinarian—were unfamiliar with the symptoms of bird flu. Perhaps, the credentials of the veterinarian should be reviewed. Although only one town has been hit by bird flu, there is a quarantine within a seven-kilometer radius. A trade ban is already in place.
On the other hand, people scared of bird flu might stay away from chicken altogether and the low demand will probably drive prices down. I was about to boycott chicken myself until the outbreak is over but I did read up and, according to the Department of Health, even infected birds can be eaten so long as they are properly cooked. It is people like farm workers who are exposed to live infected birds that are at risk.
How dangerous is bird flu to humans?
There are several strains of bird flu but only H5N1, H7N3, H7N7, H7N9, and H9N2 can infect humans—so far, at least. The death of the chickens in Pampanga was caused by the H5 strain.
Humans do not catch bird flu by eating an infected bird (more on that later). It can be transferred from bird to human if the human comes in contact with excretions (saliva and feces) of infected birds. “Contact” includes touching surfaces contaminated with these secretions.
Cooking kills bird flu virus
Cooking the chicken kills the virus so there’s no way that you can get infected by eating a properly cooked bird even if was infected with bird flu before it was slaughtered.
What does “properly cooked” mean? Well, it means thoroughly cooking chicken under sanitary conditions. Unlike beef and pork which are sometimes served with the innermost part of the meat still pink, chicken is never served “rare” anyway. It isn’t eaten raw either. At least, I’ve not come across a dish with raw chicken in it.
If cooking a whole (uncut) chicken, make sure that the internal temperature of the meat reaches at least 165F. Stick a thermometer at the thickest part of the meat (the breast or the thigh) and check the temperature.
Prevent transfer of virus from raw chicken
In the kitchen, to prevent transfer of the virus from raw infected chicken to you and your family, it is essential for the cook to wash his or her hands thoroughly before and after handling raw chicken.
Thoroughly clean as well all utensils that came in contact with the uncooked bird, especially chopping boards and knives.
If you have young children who like to share in the cooking chores, let them prep other ingredients but it is best not to let them touch raw chicken. They can do that after the bird flu outbreak is over.
So, for us who love chicken, there is no need to panic. There is no reason not to go to the grocery for a tray of chicken fillets to make these sticky spicy chicken fingers.
Pat the chicken fillets dry with paper towels. Cut into strips about half an inch wide. Place in a bowl. Add the salt, pepper, garlic, ginger and lemongrass. Mix well.
In another bowl, stir together the starch, flour, baking powder and beer to make a pourable batter.
Heat the cooking oil in a wok or frying pan to a temperature of 350F. Drip each chicken strip in batter then drop into the hot oil. Cook for four to five minutes, rolling the battered chicken fingers in the hot oil, until golden and crisp. Do this in batches to avoid overcrowding.
Pour off the oil from the pan. Pour in the sweet chili sauce, Sriracha ketchup and soy sauce. Bring to a simmer.
Add the battered chicken fingers to the sauce. Cook, tossing, to coat all the chicken fingers with sauce. Turn off the heat. Drizzle in the sesame seed oil. Toss a few times.
Serve the sticky spicy chicken fingers at once.