Taiwanese popcorn chicken, a beloved Asian street food recipe, is perfect for game nights and family gatherings. Bite-sized chicken pieces are marinated with Chinese five spice and peppercorn mixture and double fried. A super crunchy, crispy, and savory chicken snack complemented by fragrant fried basil.

Taiwanese popcorn chicken garnished with fried basil and toothpicks in a serving bowl.

Taiwanese popcorn chicken, also known as Taiwanese fried chicken (台灣鹽酥雞 – táiwān yán sū jī), originated in the lively Taiwanese night markets. This popular street food ranks among Asia’s most sought-after fried chicken recipes.

Found in bustling market stalls, cozy street cafes across Taiwan, this Taiwanese chicken snack offers a delightful blend of flavors and textures. As I reminisce about my time in Taipei decades ago, I can still vividly picture the lively streets and the sheer joy on people’s faces as they relished this crispy chicken treat.

Bite-size popcorn chicken garnished with fried basil in a container.

Why Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken?

In addition to Taiwan’s renowned Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji), this popcorn chicken recipe is another cherished family favorite.

  1. Irresistible Bite-Size Delight: Offers a delightful snacking experience. Its bite-sized pieces are easy to eat and perfect for sharing.
  2. Game Night Essential: Whether you’re watching the Super Bowl or enjoying a family game night, this savory treat makes for the ideal finger food.
  3. Family-Friendly Snack: Taiwanese popcorn chicken is a savory delight loved by the whole family. Its delicious flavor and convenient size make it an excellent choice for everyone to enjoy together.
  4. Gluten-Free Option: For those who can tolerate gluten, this snack can be prepared gluten-free, ensuring that more people can savor its crispy goodness without worry.
  5. Homemade Memories: You don’t need to travel to Taiwan to indulge in this delicious snack. With just a few simple ingredients, you can recreate the authentic Taiwanese popcorn chicken in the comfort of your own home, creating cherished memories with loved ones.

Ingredients Notes

For the authentic taste of Taiwanese popcorn chicken, the right ingredients are essential. Let’s explore these key components, ensuring that your homemade version of this crispy chicken snack perfectly captures the classic flavors and textures from Taiwanese night markets.

Ingredients for making Taiwanese popcorn chicken.
  • Chicken Thigh: Dark meat reigns supreme for this recipe. Opt for boneless skinless chicken thighs to achieve the best results.
  • Sweet Potato Starch: For that authentic crunch, opt for sweet potato starch. It has a coarser texture compared to cornstarch or regular potato starch, ensuring your chicken stays crispy for hours.
    • If sweet potato starch is elusive, tapioca starch or cornstarch are suitable substitutes.
    • You can find it easily in many Asian grocery stores.
  • Five-Spice Powder This key ingredient provides the distinctive flavor of Taiwanese fried chicken. It typically includes a blend of Chinese spices like cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorn, star anise, cloves, and fennel.
    • While spice variations exist, you can easily find five spice powder in Asian markets or online.
  • Ground Pepper: While ground Sichuan peppercorn powder is ideal, white pepper makes a fine replacement when the real deal is hard to find.
  • Additional Spices: Enhance the flavor with chili powder and paprika, along with garlic powder.
  • Thai Basil: While not mandatory, fresh Thai basil adds texture and a pop of color. Keep in mind that its fragrance diminishes after deep frying, so feel free to skip it if nee
A few pieces of Taiwanese popcorn chicken and fried basil placed on a parchment paper.

Expert Tips for This Recipe

Unlock the secrets to perfect Taiwanese popcorn chicken with these expert tips:

  • Enhance Flavor with Marination: For a mouthwatering experience, marinate the chicken for a minimum of 30 minutes, or even better, let it soak overnight before diving into the deep-frying process.
  • Handle Fresh Basil with Care: When dealing with Thai basil, ensure it’s completely dry. Any lingering moisture on the leaves can lead to sizzling oil splashes. Even with dry herbs, expect some oil splatter, so maintain a safe distance when adding them to the hot oil.
  • Double Deep-Frying Magic: Achieve an irresistible crispy texture and that signature golden brown color by employing the double deep-frying technique. Your taste buds will thank you!

Step-by-Step Instructions

Deep-Frying the Thai Basil

I recommend frying the basil before the chicken pieces to achieve a vibrant green color and a crispy texture.

  • Heat a wok of vegetable oil over medium heat and carefully deep-fry the Thai basil leaves. Be cautious of oil splashes.
  • Fry for approximately 10-15 seconds until the leaves become crisp while retaining their green color. Transfer the basil to a wire rack or paper towels.

Marinating and Coating Chicken Thigh

To marinate:

  • In a mixing bowl, combine chicken pieces, garlic, ground Sichuan peppercorns (or white pepper), five-pice powder, sugar, soy sauce, shaoxing wine, salt, egg white, and 4 tablespoons of sweet potato starch.
  • Mix thoroughly and marinate for at least 30 minutes to enhance the flavor.

To coat chicken with starch:

  • Place 1 cup of sweet potato starch in a large bowl.
  • Add a batch of marinated chicken pieces and coat them with the starch. Let the chicken sit for 5 minutes, allowing the starch to form small beads on the surface as it clings to the chicken.

Deep Frying the Chicken

First Deep-Fry:

  • Drop pieces of chicken into the hot oil in small batches at a time and fry until they turn lightly golden, approximately 3-4 minutes.
  • Remove the pieces from frying oil and place them on a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Second Fry:

  • Increase the heat to medium-high. Add a batch of fried chicken pieces back into the hot oil and fry until they become deep golden brown and crispy, around 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove and return them to the wire rack. Repeat this process with the remaining chicken.

Spice Seasoning Mix – Finishing Touch

To make the spice seasoning mix:

  • Combine salt, paprika, chili powder, white pepper (or ground Sichuan peppercorns), and garlic powder in a small bowl.

Season the popcorn chicken:

  • Place the popcorn chicken in a large bowl along with the fried Thai basil. Sprinkle as much of the spice mixture as desired and toss to coat.
  • Serve your Taiwanese popcorn chicken immediately for a crunchy, flavorful experience.

Serving Suggestions

Enjoy piping hot Taiwanese popcorn chicken as a snack or appetizer, or savor them as a main course. Serve warm alongside fluffy steamed rice and a side of your choice, such as Choy Sum. Explore options like Egg Fried Rice and Pan-Fried Noodles, or Sesame Soba Noodles for a satisfying feast.

Taiwanese popcorn sized fried chicken garnished with fried Thai basil.

More Authentic Chinese Recipes

If you enjoy authentic Chinese dishes, check these recipes out. They are some of my favorites.

Taiwanese popcorn chicken is served in a container with toothpicks.

Best Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

Taiwanese popcorn chicken, a beloved Asian street food recipe, is perfect for game nights and family gatherings. Bite-sized chicken pieces are marinated with Chinese five spice and peppercorn mixture and double fried. A super crunchy, savory chicken snack complemented by fragrant fried basil.
5 from 1 rating

Recipe Video

Ingredients

For spice seasoning mix

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper, or Sichuan pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Instructions 

  • Marinate the Chicken: In a mixing bowl, combine chicken pieces, garlic, white pepper (or ground Sichuan pepper), five spice powder, sugar, soy sauce, shaoxing wine, salt, egg white, and 4 tablespoons of sweet potato starch. Mix thoroughly and marinate for at least 30 minutes to enhance the flavor.
  • Coat the Chicken with Starch: Place 1 cup of sweet potato starch in a large bowl. Add a batch of marinated chicken pieces and coat them with the starch. Let the chicken sit for 5 minutes, allowing the starch to form small beads on the surface as it clings to the chicken.
  • Deep-Fry the Thai Basil: Heat a wok of oil over medium heat and carefully deep-fry the Thai basil leaves. Be cautious of oil splashes. Fry for approximately 10-15 seconds until the leaves become crisp while retaining their green color. Transfer the basil to a wire rack.
  • First Deep-Fry: Heat a wok of oil over medium heat and carefully deep-fry the Thai basil leaves. Be cautious of oil splashes. Fry for approximately 10-15 seconds until the leaves become crisp while retaining their green color. Transfer the basil to a wire rack.
  • Second Deep-Fry: Increase the heat to medium-high. Add a batch of fried chicken pieces back into the hot oil and fry until they become deep golden brown and crispy, around 2-3 minutes. Remove and return them to the wire rack. Repeat this process with the remaining chicken.
  • Prepare the Spice Seasoning Mix: Combine salt, paprika, chili powder, white pepper, and garlic powder in a small bowl.
  • Season the Popcorn Chicken: Place the popcorn chicken in a large bowl along with the fried Thai basil. Sprinkle as much of the spice mixture as desired and toss to coat. Serve your Taiwanese popcorn chicken immediately for a crunchy, flavorful experience.
Calories: 217kcal, Carbohydrates: 16g, Protein: 24g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 0.02g, Cholesterol: 108mg, Sodium: 1101mg, Potassium: 348mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 323IU, Vitamin C: 3mg, Calcium: 34mg, Iron: 2mg
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