Chilli Chicken revisions

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summary: recipe for Yueh Tung Chilli Chicken, T’s take on a dish served at Yueh Tung on Elizabeth Street; click on image(s) for larger views and more photos

Chilli Chicken I adore chilli chicken.

Yueh Tung (Elizabeth Street just south of Dundas) is one of our favourite Chinese restaurants in Toronto and makes great chilli chicken. But it isn’t always convenient and/or desirable to go out for dinner. As much as we adore the food at Yueh Tung, most nights, what we really like is to stay home to dine.

Luckily for me, T is one of those people who can taste just about any dish, then wander into the kitchen, hum a few tunes, sniff in various jars and containers, and then happily and thoughtfully recreate the same thing from the memory of the taste and texture of the dish. There are few things that elude him. And over the years, T has tried to recreate the chilli chicken and has come very close in my estimation but not close enough in his. From time to time, I beg T to make it anyway. In the past, he has always been a bit reluctant because he said that it just wasn’t as good as Yueh Tung’s chilli chicken.

A few months ago, all that changed. We suddenly learned that the restaurant is run by Chinese people from India (there are many Chinese people living in Mumbai and Calcutta). And so when I wheedled for T to make chili chicken, he cut me off in mid-wheedle and readily agreed to try one more time.

What was the big change? Instead of using cornstarch to coat the chicken, T switched to using wheat flour – because that is what would be readily available in India. And now… oh joy! oh rapture! T’s chilli chicken is fabulous.

I think I could eat it every night.

Here is what T did:

Yueh Tung Chilli Chicken
T’s take on a dish served at Yueh Tung (Elizabeth & Dundas in Toronto)
Please note that the measurements are approximate.
You will want to play with them.

  • 3 chicken thighs, skinned and boned
  • ¼ c soy sauce
  • flour for coating chicken
  • ½ c vegetable oil
  • 12 whole dried cayenne chillies
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • plenty of ginger, chopped finely
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 green chilies, chopped coarsely (optional)
  • 5 green onions, chopped (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp Shaohsing(sp??) cooking wine
  • 1 Tbsp Hoi Sin sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Soy sauce (additional)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp corn starch


  1. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces and place in a bowl. Pour in soy sauce, cover and refrigerate for about an hour.
  2. Remove chicken from bowl and dredge each piece with flour.
  3. Heat oil in a wok.
  4. When a wooden spoon dipped into the oil bubbles, add the chicken pieces in batches. No crowding! Fry until golden and crispy. Set aside on a plate.
  5. Lower the heat to medium. Put in dried chillis and cook until they are dark brown.
  6. Add onions and fry until they are caramelized, stirring every so often.
  7. Add ginger and garlic to the onions and fry some more.
  8. Add green chilies and green onion, if using. Stir around just enough to warm the chilies and green onion.
  9. Mix together water, wine, sugar, 2 tsp cornstarch, hoisin and soy sauce in a small bowl. Pour it into the centre of the wok. Remove from heat and stir sauce til thickened.
  10. Just before serving, add the chicken to the onion mixture and gently stir to cover all pieces with sauce.

Serve with plenty of steamed rice, stir-fried green vegetables and beer.

Chilli Chicken The green vegetable that we serve with Chilli Chicken varies. Sometimes it is simply steamed broccoli or broccoli stir-fried in black bean sauce, or asparagus in ginger, garlic and soy. On the occasion of the photoshoot, we had stir-fried collard greens with ginger and garlic.

A note about Chinese Cooking Wine, Hoisin and Soy sauces
Korean soy sauce We prefer Yeo’s Hoisin sauce but it isn’t always available. However, in this dish, a lesser brand of Hoisin seems to be fine. The soy sauce and cooking wine, on the other hand, really have to be good quality. We like Korean soy sauce. I’m afraid I don’t know what kind it is – we buy it at a Korean supermarket and I cannot read the label.

The same thing goes for the Chinese cooking wine. I have no idea what brand it is because I can’t read Chinese. But the bottle does say “Shaohsing Cooking Wine”. I gather that that is the preferred kind. At least that is the one that was recommended by the Chinese people we asked in the shop….


edit 12 April 2011: I just learned that T’s recipe for chilli chicken has been translated into Finnish!! And (no surprise here) the recipe got rave reviews, saying it’s “the best in a long time”. (Isn’t Google Translate great?)

[…] Kokkasin siis yhtenä yksinäisenä päivänä kiinalaista chilikanaa, ja voi mahdotonta, miten hyvältä se maistuikaan! Olin jotenkin luullut, ettei kotona saisi kokattua maistuvaa kiinalaista (ainakaan ilman erillistä natriumglutamaattia), mutta miten väärässä olinkaan.

Tämä Jounin kisareseptillä kokattu ruoka oli nimittäin parasta pitkään aikaan […]

– Rosmariini,, Chilikana, 25 March 2011

How cool is that?

28 comments about “Chilli Chicken revisions

  1. your sister, Barbara

    I have used your recipe for Chilli Chicken a few times (so obviously I like it), but this new version does sound like it will be closer to the wonderful Yueh Tung version.

    I had already made a modification to the instructions similar to the new instructions, to fry the chicken separately and set it aside, to try to keep it a bit crispy. I’m looking forward to see the difference that using flour makes, and replacing half the water with shaoxing wine. And the hoisin.

    I can’t wait to try it!

  2. ejm Post author

    It stays wonderfully crispy, Barbara. You’ll be amazed at how fabulous it is. Even though it’s not quite Yueh Tung, it’s still really great. So great that I think we need to have it again very very soon….

  3. ejm Post author

    edit: I don’t know how I managed to delete David’s previous comment! (Sorry, David!) On 2007-05-12 07:42:33, David wrote:

    Your Chilli Chicken sounds wonderful. It’s the list of sixteen ingredients that scares me. The more ingredients required, the greater change I’ll forget to add one or more of them. I’m okay with about six or eight ingredients but more than that and I’ll likely to ruin the dish by forgetting to add something important. But my main problem is usally scaling up. I’m guessing your recipe feeds two people so I’d have to scale it up to feed six. This might run into problems when I try to fit 18 chicken thighs into my wok not to mention the 12 large onions, 72 cayenne chillies, etc.

    Don’t be afraid, David!!! It seems a shame to let fear of the number of ingredients cause you to miss out on the chance of having this wonderful dish. Still, a phobia is a phobia. I wonder if Yueh Tung offers overseas take out….

    First of all, I think you only need 9 thighs… we use 3 thighs for two hogs people. And the chicken is cooked in batches – no crowding!! As for the number of chillies – it’s most amusing to imagine 72 chillies in the wok. But T says that if he were making this for six, he would reckon on about 3 cayenne chillies per person – those who eat exceptionally hot food. But 2 cayennes per person would be plenty for most normal people.

    Leave out the green onions, green chillies, cooking wine, Hoi Sin sauce and it will still be really good. That shaves things down to only 12 ingredients… making it a little more manageable? Give it a shot! Let me know how it goes.

  4. CAM

    Hmm, I can see leaving out the green onions and green chillies, but not the cooking wine or Hoi Sin Sauce which are easy. David, I really appreciate your dilemma — there is nothing to do but make a checklist and use a pencil when doing such a recipe! And even then! I have been drooling ever since I saw this recipe.

  5. ejm Post author

    Good idea to make a checklist, CAM. What I usually do is put all the ingredients out on the counter first. As I add them, I put them away. Then if there’s anything left on the counter, I know I’ve forgotten to add it.

    Incidentally, this recipe looks much more complicated than it is. Once you’ve made it, you’ll see that it’s really pretty simple.

  6. your sister, Catherine

    If I ever get out your way, I wonder if there’s any way I could make an application (supplication?) to T. for a feed of that chili chicken if you’re not too tired of eating it several times a week. Every time I visit the blog lately, I seem to lurk near the chili chicken wishing it were not just virtual CC.

  7. ejm Post author

    Absolutely! One can never have chilli chicken too many times, Catherine. I really don’t think it’s possible to get tired of it.

  8. Vogod

    Thanks for the recipe.

    I just made this and I must’ve done something wrong as it looks completely different than what’s in your pictures (mine isn’t that brown at all). I used chicken breast and left out the spring onion, also I don’t have a wok, so I had to use a frying pan. Anyway, looks aside, this is delicious and hot enough for my chili-needs (which are not meager :) ). I will be definitely making this for a second time. Probably going to leave out the green chillies too and add more hoisin.

  9. bing

    Vogod, mine always comes out lighter than that too. It’s probably because I only use 1 dried chili, and I don’t leave it in very long …

    David, there are only a few _groups_ of ingredients. What I try to do with this type of recipe is prepare each group before I start. 1) Chicken+cornstarch 2) garlic+ginger, 3) green-chilis+green-onions, 4) the 6 ingredients from group 9.

    Once each group is prepared, it becomes a single “ingredient”, so there are only 8 ingredients. If you count the flour and oil as being more equipment than ingredient, there’s really only 6! Ta daaaaa!

  10. ejm Post author

    So glad to hear that you like it, in spite of the fact that it isn’t as brown as ours, Vogod. I can’t imagine that it is because of using a frying pan instead of a wok. I wonder if our soy sauce is browner than most?

    Very amusing idea to put the ingredients into groups, bing. Although, I must say that I found your group list to be even more confusing than the simple list of ingredients. (Alarm bells went off when I read 1) Chicken+cornstarch! The first group should be 1) Chicken+soysauce)

  11. CAM

    Yes, the type of soysauce will make a huge difference to the colour, EJM and Vogod. You need to use the really thick, dark soy sauce. Can’t remember the name of this type, but in Canada you can get it in Chinese grocery store and lots of larger stores, too. It has much more flavour, too.

  12. ejm Post author

    I will take another photograph of the Korean soy sauce we use. It’s not particularly thick but it is very dark.

    edit: There is a somewhat blurry photo in the post above just below “A note about Chinese Cooking Wine, Hoisin and Soy sauces”.

  13. Makeck

    I have been a devotee of Yueh Tung’s chili chicken for many years, going back to the small location they used to occupy across the street many years ago. I cannot wait to try this recipe at home.
    Chili chicken was my choice of dish there until I tried their chili beef and hot & sour soup…these two dishes are beyond description!! The soup is infused with beef slices, baby shrimp, green pepper and tender peas that explode in your mouth. Do yourself a favour and sample these 2…I usually order the chili beef with extra sauce. If your friend T could wrap his taste buds around these and come out with a recipe that is even remotely close I would be indebted for life!
    Keep up the great work!

  14. ejm Post author

    We will now have to go back one evening and try those two dishes – even though I have never been a huge fan of hot and sour soup. But dislikes of dishes are meant to be undone!

    (We went to Yueh Tung at lunch time a couple of weeks ago and were VERY disappointed in the chili chicken – it was very saucy rather than chewy and crispy. We’re hoping it was just an aberration.)

    Not too long ago, another friend of ours who goes often to Yueh Tung introduced us to “Mandarin Chicken”. He says that it’s even better than chili chicken. It is not unsimilar to chili chicken and when I taste “Mandarin Chicken”, I have to agree with him that it is even better than chili chicken. But then when I taste chili chicken, I have to disagree; chilli chicken is best. And so I go, back and forth, decreeing that whichever one I’ve tasted is the best one….

    Many thanks for your kind words, Makeck! And do let me know how your chili chicken turns out.

  15. Makeck

    Yes, both the Mandarin Chicken and Chili Chicken are wonderful tasting dishes. I find that the Mandarin chicken has a hint of ginger and does not have the onions that chili chicken does. I was sitting next to group one day there and a gentleman ordered “Sizzling Chili Chicken”. I was very interested to see how this was prepared and presented. It was indeed served on a sizzling platter. I ordered it the next time in with a side dish of steamed rice. The chicken certainly had all the flavours and hotness infused without the sauce of the regular chili chicken. It’s a nice variation on the dish I believe for those who do not like a lot of sauce….a little more expensive but worth a try! Another one to try if you are with a group is “Chicken in a Hot Pot”….it is not on the lunch menu but you can order it a la carte.It too comes sizzling in a pot with tons of chicken chunks. If you are a fan of ginger this is the one for you. Another dish with wonderful flavours…I don’t know how they do it but I am glad I work so close!

  16. micheal

    Thanks so much T for the recipe…I can’t wait to try it..i’m not much of a cook but I’ve been eating at Yeah Tung for over 16 years and the only dish I have ever had is the Manchurian Chicken…once I switched to Manchurian Beef because from time to time the chicken can be very fatty..maybe to busy to cook it crispy??? I have never had the Mandarin Chicken??? Maybe there is some confusion…I was told the only difference between Chilli chicken and Manchurian chicken was the onions but I also detect ginger…when I first found this dish I was going 3 times a week.. Not very good for the breath wife insist’s I sleep on the couch…sometimes its worth the dish…Thanks Again..Micheal

    Yes, of course, you are right. It’s “Manchurian” chicken, Micheal. -ejm

  17. Roy

    Thanks T for the recipe. I have been goint toYeuh Tung for a long time and chilli chiken is one of my favorites. There is another fovorite that Ihave which is the chilli beef. I would recomend it to anyone! So the next time you go try this dish. thanks again Roy,

  18. Brian

    Hi There,

    I’ve tried the recipe with a few revision
    Here are the changes
    3 Whole dried chillies
    1/4 onion (red onion)
    small ball of ginger
    2 cloves of garlic
    3 1/2 Tbsp water
    1/2 Tbsp of Soy Sauce
    1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
    no green chilliees
    the rest are all the same amount

    I love manchurian chicken at Yeuh Tung in Toronto. I tried replicate it, but I can get it right, the original amount was not right at all, taste too much of ginger and garlic, sweet , thats why I reduce the amount. Can you help me?
    I don’t live in Toronto anymore and I MISS the manchurian chicken, I want to atleast make it very similar to manchurian chicken Yueh Tung style.

  19. Stella

    A million thanks for your chilli chicken recipe. I am a Singaporean Indian living in Karratha, Western Australia and I miss the great chinese food you get in Singapore.. I wanted to prepare our favourite chinese dishes for Malaysian Indian friends who are coming for lunch and I was looking for a recipe online for that yummy dish of diced chicken in a dark sauce and lots of whole dried chillies and onions. I belief its called szechuan style? Your chilli chicken recipe sounds close except the chicken pieces were not battered and fried in Singapore. Any idea how I could prepare that Singapore dish? Thanks!

  20. ejm Post author

    How wonderful that you found and like our chilli chicken, Stella! A million thanks to you for saying so. I’m not at all familiar with the Singapore dish you’ve described. I wish I were; it sounds great.

    I wonder if it would be a reasonable facsimile if you made Hoisin Chicken and left out the peanuts. Or maybe Jaggery Chicken is similar?


  21. Jason

    I will try this on the weekend – I ate at YT every day of the week (many times twice a day) for more than 6 years. Really. I still go often and chilli chicken on the sizzling plate is always on the menu.

    Any advice on a re-creation of that item?

    Thanks, J

    Wow. YT every day…. We used to go about twice a month but haven’t been there in a while. Alas, we never tried the chilli chicken on a sizzling plate, Jason, so have no idea how to re-create that. Hope you like our version of YT chilli chicken! Do let us know how it turns out. -Elizabeth

  22. TPH

    UPDATE: Instead of doing the sauce with water, soy sauce and cornstarch etc. I have revised the recipe somewhat so that when the sauce coats the chicken it all stays really crispy. The idea is to make a kind of Chinese style teriyaki sauce. The sauce can be cooked in a pan or wok ahead of time.

    1/4 cup oil
    dry red chillies to taste
    1 large onion
    3 cloves garlic
    2 Tblsp ginger
    good splash soya sauce
    good splash water
    1/8 cup sugar (or to taste)
    1 Tblsp Chinese hot chili bean paste (optional)

    Blacken chillies in oil the caramelize onion garlic and ginger to dark brown. Add the remaining ingredients and reduce to a thick syrupy sauce (think teryaki consistency).

  23. Ish Chowdhury

    I’m over the moon that I found this recipe. I’ve been eating halal and was heart broken I can’t eat this dish anymore. But excited to try it for myself at home! Can I ask what would be an adequate substitute for the cooking wine? I’ve looked online, and found a substitute for alcohols was white grape juice? Any advice? thanks again!

    1. Elizabeth

      Thank you!

      I confess that we don’t bother getting cooking wine anymore, and simply use dry sherry instead. But that doesn’t help you if your diet can’t include alcohol….

      I’m not sure that white grape juice would work as a substitute though. I’m guessing that it’s too sweet and not astringent enough. I’d be more inclined to try using apple cider vinegar (but a little less than is called for for the cooking wine because of the acidity of the vinegar). Or maybe rice vinegar.

      But considering that the amount called for is so small, you can probably be safe in just leaving it out and the chili chicken would be just as good.

      Try googling “sherry cooking wine vinegar halal” – it looks like may have more answers for you.

      Happy chilli chicken eating!

      1. Ish Chowdhury

        You got back to me! Haha, I saw the posts and saw they were from 10 years ago, but just wanted to give my two cents. I’ve just gone with adding a little white vinegar, but I do have apple cider at home, so i’ll give it a go. I’ll look over TPH’s comment again, but thanks again. Made this recipe yesterday, and it was delicious! Thanks again for the insight.

        1. Elizabeth

          I’m really glad that the recipe worked out for you. Good idea to use white vinegar. I’m sure that works just as well as apple cider vinegar.

          Mmm… chili chicken… it really is a fabulous invention, isn’t it?

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