Mouth-watering chicken (Kou Shui Ji, 口水鸡)

A vibrant dish with multiple layers of flavour, mouth-watering chicken is a classic of Sichuan cuisine. It makes a great cold dish for a festive feast.

Chinese New Year (Spring Festival, 春节) of 2019 will fall on the 5th of Feb which is only one month away. Today’s recipe Sichuan Mouth-watering Chicken would make a great dish to a festive feast. The colour of the chilli oil corresponds with the New Year Red. It can be prepared in advance making your festive meal stress free. This delicacy is one of the most popular dishes in Sichuan-themed restaurant in China. It’s Chinese name 口水鸡 (Kou Shui Ji) literally means “Saliva Chicken” which isn’t necessarily an appealing term, but it certainly conveys the appeal of this classic dish.. 

Prepare the chicken in 3 steps

Traditional mouth-watering chicken calls for a whole chicken served chopped with skin and bones. In my recipe, I use chicken legs instead. For the convenience of the diners, I usually remove the bones prior to slicing. Please feel free to alter the recipe based on your own preference. Chicken thighs  and chicken wings are good options as they are also tender and tasty cuts of the chicken.

To cook the chicken legs, there are three steps which take approximately the same time (please adjust the length if you use whole chicken or other cuts). This particular process will help to fully cook the chicken while still retaining its shape (without falling apart).

  1. Simmer the chicken in water with Shaoxing rice wine, spring onion and ginger for 10 minutes.
  2. Turn off the heat and allow the remaining heat to cook the chicken for a further 10 minutes.
  3. Cool the chicken in icy water for 10 minutes. 

Make the mouth-watering chilli oil from scratch

Homemade chilli oil

Looking at the red, vibrant colour of the chilli oil in mouth-watering chicken, I guess you would immediately understand why this classic Sichuan dish is given such a name. When my 9-year-old son first saw this dish and asked its name, he commented “It does make me drool!”

Not only does chilli oil make this dish appetizing, it also provides the key flavour: hot and super aromatic. I highly recommend that you make the chilli oil from scratch. It’s a versatile condiment that goes with many Chinese dishes. If you are passionate about Sichuan cuisine, it’s essential to have it in your cupboard. I have written a post on “Make your own chilli oil” and you can find detailed instruction there (with video).

Mix a sauce with multiple layers of flavour

Sichuan mouth-watering chicken is more than just a “hot” dish. It has a sophisticated, multi-layered taste: garlicky, gingery, umami (from the fresh chicken stock), savoury (from soy sauce), sour (from Chinese rice vinegar), sweet, nutty (from peanuts & sesame) and mouth-numbing (from Sichuan pepper).

Sichuan pepper (花椒) is used in power form in this recipe. However, I suggest you grind whole Sichuan pepper yourself instead of using a shop bought one. Freshly toasted and ground Sichuan pepper has a much stronger taste and will make a noticeable difference. Please refer to my previous post on “Sichuan pepper and how to grind it” for instructions.


Mouth-watering chicken (Kou Shui Ji, 口水鸡)
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17 ratings

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 2-3 servings

Mouth-watering chicken (Kou Shui Ji, 口水鸡)

A vibrant dish with multiple layers of flavour, mouth-watering chicken is a classic of Sichuan cuisine. It makes a great cold dish for a festive feast.


    Group 1
  • 3 chicken legs
  • 1 stalk spring onion, cut in half
  • 5 slices ginger
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
    Group 2
  • 2 tablespoons raw peanuts / cashew nuts, skinless
    Group 3
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 60ml / 1/4 cup fresh chicken stock (made with the ingredients from Group 1)
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon black rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground Sichuan pepper (see note 1)
    Group 4
  • 1 stalk spring onion, finely chopped
  • 60ml / 1/4 cup homemade chilli oil (see note 2)
  • Toasted sesame seeds


  1. Cook the chicken: Place all the ingredients from Group 1 into a pot filled with water (enough to immerse the chicken). Bring it to a full boil then turn the heat down. Leave to simmer with a lid on for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep the chicken in the pot (covered) for a further 10 minutes. Then transfer the chicken into a bowl of cold water (ideally with ice cubes). Leave to cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Toast the peanuts / cashew nuts: While waiting for the chicken to cook, toast the peanuts / cashew nuts in a cold wok over a low heat until they become lightly brown. Leave to cool then crush them into small pieces.
  3. Prepare the sauce: Combine all the ingredients from group 3 (see note 1).
  4. Assemble the dish: Carefully remove the bones of the chicken legs. Slice the flesh into 1-2 cm wide strips. Pour the sauce into a serving plate. Lay the chicken in. Garnish with crushed peanuts / cashew nuts and spring onion. Then pour the chilli oil (see note 2) over and sprinkle with sesame seeds.


1. If possible, I suggest you use freshly ground Sichuan pepper rather than a shop bought one. Please refer to my previous post "Sichuan pepper and how to grind it" for instructions.

2. Since Sichuan style chilli oil (四川红油) is the key seasoning for this dish, I highly recommend you make it yourself. Please refer to my previous post "Make your own chilli oil" for instructions. To achieve a more authentic look for this dish, please use only clear red oil (pour through a sieve to remove chilli flakes etc.)

Thank you very much for reading my post. If my recipe does make your drool, give it a try and tell me how you like it!

Happy cooking!

An enthusiastic cook with a Chinese palate and a global mindset.

2 thoughts

  1. This is my favourite dish – every time I go to a Sichuan restaurant I order it. Sadly there isn’t many Sichuan restaurants where I live (Winchester) and it would be brilliant if I could make this at home to satisfy my cravings! Will give this a try this weekend 🙂 Thanks for sharing x

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