Moist chicken cubes seasoned with a tasty, tangy sauce, black pepper chicken (黑椒鸡丁) is an easy Chinese stir-fry dish not to miss.
I’ve been publishing quite a few dough-based recipes recently and some of my readers have asked if I can share some Chinese stir-fry dishes for a change. Of course! Today’s recipe Black Pepper Chicken (黑椒鸡丁) is one of the favourites in our Red House. Simple yet delicious, it makes a great dish both for everyday meals and festive occasions.
Which cut of chicken to use
I like using skinless & boneless chicken thighs for this stir-fry dish as they’re moist and flavoursome. Chicken drums are good too if you remove their skin and bones. That said, please feel free to use chicken breast if you prefer.
Cut the chicken into cubes, about 1.5 cm (½ inch) each side. For a prettier finished look, dice the vegetables (bell pepper, onion & celery) into similar size to match the chicken.
How to make the chicken moist
I guess no one likes their chicken dry & tough. To keep it moist & tender, I always briefly marinate chicken pieces before stir-frying (especially when I use chicken breast). This is how I do it:
- Place the chicken, ginger, cornstarch & water in a bowl. Rub and mix until no liquid can be seen.
- Then add sesame oil to help the chicken pieces separate and to add extra aroma.
Also, remember not to overcook the chicken (However, undercooked chicken could pose a health risk). To check the doneness, I often use the spatula to break one piece of chicken. If the meat separates easily without resistance, it’s fully cooked.
How to make a great sauce
A good stir fry sauce should be balanced in flavour, thick enough to evenly coat the main ingredients and have an appetizing shine. To make the sauce for my black pepper chicken, you will need:
- Ground black pepper. This is the soul of the dish so be generous and use freshly ground black pepper for a more pungent taste.
- Oyster sauce. This classic sauce provides nice umami to the dish.
- Light soy sauce & dark soy sauce. The latter enhances the brown colour. If not available, it’s fine to just use light soy sauce.
- Cornstarch & water. This helps to thicken the sauce.
Use vegetables of your choice
The vegetables in my black pepper chicken taste great too! Not only do they balance the dish in terms of nutrition, they also add vibrant colours and a crunchy texture.
My recipe calls for red bell pepper, onion & celery. However, please feel free to choose other vegetables that you like, such as Broccoli, carrot, asparagus, courgette, baby corn, snow peas, etc. Just remember to blanch broccoli or carrot beforehand as they take longer to cook.
A good workflow for stir-fry dishes
Compare to other cooking methods, stir-frying is very fast. The heat is usually set to high. Ingredients are chopped into small sizes. So it only takes a few minutes from start to finish.
This means you need to act fast at each step, otherwise, you might burn your food during the process. This is why I always place emphasis on having a good workflow in mind when it comes to cooking Chinese stir-fry dishes.
- Marinate the meat (if using) first. Leave it to infuse while preparing other ingredients.
- Chop other ingredients. Ideally, you should cut all main ingredients into similar sizes, whether strips, slices or cubes.
- Mince, crush or slice herbs required, such as scallions, garlic, ginger, etc.
- Mix all the ingredients for the sauce before you start stir-frying. This is very important but often neglected. If containing cornstarch, don’t forget to stir the sauce right before you pour it into the wok as starch tends to sink to the bottom over time.
- When you start stir-frying, make sure you have everything within easy reach. Follow the sequence to add ingredients into the wok.
This workflow applies to many scrumptious stir-fry dishes, such as:
- Black Pepper Beef (黑椒牛柳)
- Kung Pao Shrimp (宫保虾仁)
- Spicy Orange beef (橙味牛肉)
- Sichuan Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce (鱼香肉丝)
Black pepper chicken stir-fry (黑椒鸡丁)
For the chicken
- 350 g chicken, diced, 12oz (see note 1)
- 1 tsp ginger, julienned
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 tsp sesame oil
For the sauce
You also need
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- ½ red bell pepper, diced
- 1 smal onion, diced
- 50 g celery, diced, 2oz
- 1 tbsp scallions, finely chopped
- Place the chicken, ginger, cornstarch & water in a bowl. Rub and mix until no liquid can be seen. Add sesame oil. Mix then set aside.
- Mix all the ingredients for the sauce.
- Heat up the oil in a wok over high heat. Add the chicken. Stir fry until the chicken cubes become pale on the surface.
- Add onion, bell pepper and celery. Fry for 2 minutes or so until the chicken is fully cooked.
- Pour in the sauce (stir well beforehand). Fry until it becomes thick and coats the chicken and vegetables evenly.
- Sprinkle scallions over. Dish out and serve immediately with plain rice.