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?

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30 responses to “Chilli Chicken revisions

  1. 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?


  2. 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

  3. 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).

  4. 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 Post author

      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 Post author

          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?

  5. Brad M

    I don’t suppose you’ve tried the Manchurian chicken there and have a take on it? I believe the two dishes are close in flavour. Since moving to the west coast, that and a good veal sandwich are what I miss most of toronto. (And a few friends)

    edit 25 September 2020, 17:29: I can’t remember if we tried the Manchurian chicken there. (We loved chili chicken so much that we rarely strayed.) And unfortunately, the kitchen has changed hands completely – Yueh Tung is a mere shadow of what it was. Or at least that is our impression from the last time – easily 5 or more years ago – that we were there. -Elizabeth
    (Where did you get the good veal sandwich?)

  6. Karyuudo

    Looks like the Yueh Tung girls’ have finally bottled the sauce up for everyone to enjoy! Smart way to do business in these crazy times! Secret’s Out: we have finally bottled our chili chicken sauce!
    – instagram: yuehtungrestaurant
    (www[dot]instagram[dot]com/p/CGaOaiHBLWp/), 16 October 2020

    edit 18 October 2020, 12:08: That’s very cool! It has been ages since we have been to Yeuh Tung. I’m really glad to hear that it’s doing well again. (The last time we were there – eons ago – it was just barely okay. Perhaps it was an off-night….)
    I like this article on CBC too: People love this Hakka restaurant’s chili chicken so much, they’ve tried to crack the recipe, 30 November 2017. -E


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