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?

This entry was posted in food & drink, main course, posts with recipes, spicy on by .

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