Chengdu Chicken

Chengdu Chicken

avlxyz / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 7 mins
Total: 27 mins
Servings: 3 to 4 servings

A Szechuan dish, Chengdu chicken is named after the city of Chengdu, which is the capital of Szechuan province. Hot bean paste is made with fermented soybeans and crushed chilies. (Be sure not to confuse it with chili paste). Serves 3 to 4 as a main dish with rice or 4 to 6 as part of a multicourse meal.


  • 2 to 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (14 to 16 ounces total)
  • For the Marinade:
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
  • Optional: pinch of black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 teaspoons cornstarch
  • For the Sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar (or rice vinegar: red rice vinegar if possible)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch (mixed in 2 tablespoons water)
  • For the Rest:
  • 1 green onion (spring onion, scallion)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 1/2 bunch spinach
  • Salt to season spinach
  • 1 tablespoon hot bean paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground Szechuan pepper (or coriander)

Steps to Make It

  1. Pat the chicken breasts dry. Remove any fat. Cut into strips and then into 1-inch cubes.

  2. Add the marinade ingredients, adding the cornstarch last. Marinate the chicken for 20 minutes.

  3. While the chicken is marinating, prepare the sauce and the vegetables. Combine the rice wine or dry sherry, soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar. In a separate small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch into the water. Set aside.

  4. Wash the green onion and chop it into small pieces. Smash and peel the garlic. Chop the garlic and ginger. Wash and drain the spinach.

  5. Heat the wok. When the wok is hot, add 1 tablespoon oil. Add the spinach and sprinkle a bit of salt on top. As soon as the spinach wilts (a few seconds), remove it and set aside.

  6. Clean out the wok and heat 4 tablespoons oil. Add the chicken cubes, stir-frying continually to keep them from sticking. When the chicken changes color and is nearly 80 percent cooked, remove it from the wok. Leave 2 tablespoons oil in the wok.

  7. Add the garlic, ginger and hot bean paste to the wok. Stir-fry briefly until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add the chicken back into the wok and mix with the hot bean paste.

  8. Push the chicken back up to the sides and add the sauce mixture in the middle. Give the cornstarch and water mixture a quick re-stir and mix it in the sauce, stirring quickly to thicken.

  9. Mix the sauce with the chicken. Stir in the green onion and sesame oil. Sprinkle the freshly ground Szechuan pepper over top. Serve with the stir-fried spinach.