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.
A great dish to a festive feast
Sichuan Mouth-watering Chicken makes a great dish to any festive feasts, e.g. Chinese New Year meals. 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 restaurants in China. Its 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 a whole chicken or other cuts). This particular process will help to fully cook the chicken while still retaining its shape (without falling apart).
- Simmer the chicken in water with Shaoxing rice wine, scallions and ginger for 10 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and allow the remaining heat to cook the chicken for a further 10 minutes.
- Cool the chicken in icy water for 10 minutes.
Make the chilli oil from scratch
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. Check out my post on “Make your own chilli oil” in which you can find detailed instruction and a tutorial video).
Make a multi-flavoured sauce
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 black rice vinegar), sweet, nutty (from peanuts & sesame) and mouth-numbing (from Sichuan pepper).
Sichuan pepper (花椒) is used in powder 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 post on “Sichuan pepper and how to grind it” for instructions.
Other chicken recipes to try
Chicken is such a versatile ingredient, right? Here are some classic chicken dishes you might like:
Mouth-watering chicken (Kou Shui Ji, 口水鸡)
- 3 chicken legs
- 1 stalk scallions - cut in half
- 5 slices ginger
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
- 2 tablespoon raw peanuts/cashew nuts - skinless
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 60 ml fresh chicken stock (made with the ingredients from Group 1) - ¼ cup
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon black rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt - or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground Sichuan pepper - see note 1
- 1 stalk scallions - finely chopped
- 60 ml homemade chilli oil - ¼ cup, see note 2
- Toasted sesame seeds
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.
Toast the 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.
Prepare the sauce
- Combine all the ingredients from group 3 (see note 1).
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 scallions.
- Pour the chilli oil (see note 2) over and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
NUTRITION DISCLOSURE: Nutritional information on this website is provided as a courtesy to readers. It should be considered estimates. Please use your own brand nutritional values or your preferred nutrition calculator to double check against our estimates.
Absolutely delicious. The flavours were perfect, we just can’t get nice dishes like this here in France!! I’ve followed you for ages on Instagram and so happy I made this chicken. The cooking and deboning technique has changed my life!
Wei Guo says
Thank you for your positive feedback Caroline! Very happy you’ve enjoyed the dish.
Charlotte osborne says
Greetings from British Columbia, Canada. I prepared this recipe on a whim yesterday. Turned out delicious. The instructions were so easy to follow. I was very impressed with the deboning technique in the video. Not quite as easy as it looks – I will keep practising. I’m fairly new to Chinese cooking but one of the first things I picked up was have everything prepared ahead of time, it makes the whole thing so much easier. Knowing that, why would I embark on this recipe unless I had chilli oil already made? Why indeed. Not too big a deal, just a small detour – The Red House Spice recipe was simple with excellent tips. I’ve made chilli oil before but burned the chillies so this time I was so careful with the temperature. Too careful. The oil was not hot enough to cook the chilli mixture. Batch #2 turned out fantastic! 😊. By now the kitchen was turned completely upside down and I was running late for an appointment. My wonderful husband was kind enough not to say anything about the state of affairs when I came home. I am so glad I found The Red House Spice. Wei’s instructions are clear and easy to follow. I can’t wait to try other recipes and learn new techniques. Thank you for the wonderful inspiration your site provides.
Wei Guo says
So lovely to hear your feedback Charlotte! I’m delighted you enjoy my recipes.