One of the easiest ways to cook chicken, this Sha Cha chicken recipe calls for simple preparation but delivers a delectable result.
What is Sha Cha chicken
Chicken recipes have always been popular with my blog readers. Today, I’m sharing a super simple dish, Sha Cha Chicken (Shā Chá Jī/沙茶鸡), which has a short ingredient list, requires minimum culinary skills and can be cooked quickly.
This quick dish features chicken pieces seasoned with an umami-rich marinade, pan-fried with aromatics, and then briefly braised to achieve a tender texture and a mouthwatering appearance. Its key flavor comes from Sha Cha sauce, a unique paste that offers multiple layers of exciting taste.
Sha Cha chicken calls for a few ingredients, and you’ve probably got most of them at hand if you’re familiar with Chinese cooking.
- Chicken. I prefer boneless, skinless drums or thighs for this recipe. Wings and breasts are good options too.
- Sha Cha Sauce, the key flavor contributor to the dish (more on this in the next section)
- Light soy sauce
- Salt and sugar
- Aromatics: ginger, garlic, and scallions
- Neutral cooking oil
About Sha Cha sauce
Sha Cha sauce (Shā Chá Jiàng/沙茶酱), also spelled as Shacha or Sacha sauce, is a multi-purpose condiment made of fish, shrimp, aromatics, and spices. Popular in the cuisines of Chaozhou (Teochew), Fujian, and Taiwan, it has a distinctive umami and savory taste that lends deliciousness to many dishes.
This sauce comes in tins or jars, with the thick, brown paste sitting at the bottom, covered by a good amount of golden-reddish oil. You need to stir these two components before spooning the mixture out for recipes. The most popular and easily accessible brand is Bull Head/牛頭牌 (shown in the image above).
Although Sha Cha sauce is labeled as “Barbecue Sauce” in English, don’t confuse it with Char Siu sauce/叉烧酱, the key ingredient for Char Siu (aka Chinese BBQ pork). Also, don’t mistake it for Satay sauce/沙爹酱, which is a peanut-based condiment with a sweet undertone.
🌟 Substitutes: It’s hard to find other condiments that share the same flavor profile. The closest is probably XO sauce, which is also seafood-based and umami-rich.
To prepare this dish, it takes three simple steps and less than 10 minutes of active time (plus 10 minutes for marinating). Here is the workflow:
Step 1: Marinate the chicken
Cut the chicken into big chunks. If using boneless drums, halve them. If using thighs, cut them into quarters. For wings, chop on the joints to separate three sections.
In a large bowl, mix chicken pieces with Sha Cha sauce, light soy sauce, cornstarch, salt, and sugar. Then, coat the seasoned chicken with a little oil to lock in the moisture.
Leave to marinate for 10 minutes, or up to 2 hours for a richer taste.
Step 2: Pan-fry the chicken
Use a large skillet or frying pan. First, heat oil that’s just enough to thinly cover the surface of the cookware. Lay the marinated chicken pieces in a single layer. Scatter sliced ginger and halved garlic cloves all around.
Leave to fry over medium heat until the bottom side of the chicken browns. Flip to fry the other side.
Step 3: Braise the chicken
Once both sides of the chicken become golden, add about ½ cup of water.
Cover the skillet with a lid and leave to braise for about 4 minutes over high heat, until the chicken is fully cooked (extend it to 6 minutes if using bone-in pieces).
Finally, add chopped scallions. Let it cook a little further, without the lid, to boil down the cooking liquid.
How to serve
Why not prepare a simple vegetable dish to complement the meal? The quickest option would be making a Smashed Cucumber Salad while waiting for the chicken to marinate. Or, try Steamed Eggplant Salad which takes under 10 minutes to prepare.
Other simple recipes
Looking for more quick & easy dishes to try? Have a look at these popular ones:
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating in the recipe card below & if you REALLY like it, consider leaving a comment as well!
Sha Cha Chicken (沙茶鸡)
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken drums, or thighs - see note 1
- 2 tablespoon Sha Cha sauce - see note 2
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2½ tablespoon neutral cooking oil - divided
- 6 slices ginger
- 8 cloves garlic - halved
- 2 stalks scallions - cut into sections
- Cut chicken drums, or thighs, into chunks. Put them in a bowl and add Sha Cha sauce, light soy sauce, cornstarch, salt, and sugar.
- Mix well, then pour in ½ tablespoon of oil and stir to coat the chicken evenly. Leave to marinate for 10 minutes, or up to 2 hours.
- Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet/frying pan. Place in the marinated chicken pieces without overlapping, along with ginger and garlic.
- Let them fry over medium heat until the first side of the chicken turns golden. Flip to brown the other side.
- Add about ½ cup of water to the skillet. Cover with a lid and leave to braise over high heat for about 4 minutes.
- Remove the lid and stir in scallions. Cook further until the cooking liquid is reduced to a minimum. Dish out and serve immediately with steamed rice.
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.