“Desi Chinese” is probably a term that you have never heard before. The word “desi” is a direct reference to almost anything Indian (including person, place or thing). So basically, Desi Chinese is simply Chinese food Indian style. It’s the best of both worlds and simply delicious. It’s old world fusion cuisine at its best. Traditional Chinese dishes are prepared with aromatic Indian flavors and spices.
Chili Chicken is a favorite among fans, it is easy to prepare and tasty. Served along side stir fried noodles with vegetables or fragrant Jasmine rice, it makes for a delightful meal. A vegetarian version can be made by easily substituting the chicken pieces with either paneer or tofu pieces (Chili Paneer or Chili Tofu). Traditionally, green bell peppers are added to this dish but feel free to use any color bell pepper that you prefer. I like a mixture of bell peppers including green, red, yellow or orange varieties.
There are many different variations of this recipe and I have tried most of them. The one below is my very own and a favorite in my house especially with kids.
CHILI CHICKEN (Spicy Indo-Chinese Chicken Stir Fry)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs (you can use chicken breasts), cut into 1.5” pieces
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 small bell peppers, cut into bite size pieces (green, red, yellow or orange bell peppers)
1” piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2-3 small green Thai chilies, slit in half lengthwise (to taste)
1 tsp ground cumin powder
1 tsp ground coriander powder
˝ tsp red chili powder, to taste
salt & pepper, to taste
2-3 tbsp soy sauce (low salt is fine)
3-4 tbsp oil (peanut oil works well but vegetable or canola oil is fine)
cornstarch as needed
toasted sesame oil
toasted sesame seeds for garnish
finely chopped chives for garnish (onion or garlic chives work well)
In a medium size mixing bowl, combine the chicken pieces with a little salt, pepper and a light dusting of cornstarch. If you like spicy food, add a pinch of red chili powder. Mix well to coat all the chicken pieces evenly and set aside until needed.
In a small bowl, combine 1 tbsp of the cornstarch with the a little water (3-4 tbsp) and mix well. This mixture is called a slurry and is used as a thickening agent especially in Chinese cooking. Set aside but remember to stir again just before use.
In a medium size skillet or wok on medium high heat, add 2 tbsp of the oil. When hot, slowly add the chicken pieces. Cook the chicken pieces until they are browned on all sides. You may need to do this in batches. Drain well and set aside until needed.
To the same skillet or wok, add oil if needed. When hot, add the onions and stir fry until browned. Next add the ginger and garlic. Now add the green chilies and spices (salt, pepper, ground cumin powder, ground coriander powder & red chili powder). Stir fry for a few more minutes to allow the spices to cook. Stir fry and add the bell peppers. Cook for just 4-5 minutes. I personally like my bell peppers with a little crunch, but if you prefer your bell peppers a little softer then feel free to cook them a little longer until they are tender. Now add the chicken back to the skillet or wok. Mix well to combine all of the ingredients.
Create a well in the center of your wok or skillet, then quickly add both the soy sauce and the cornstarch slurry. Stir well to coat all the chicken and bell peppers in the sauce. The sauce should thicken quickly. Finish the dish with the toasted sesame seeds, a few drops of toasted sesame oil and garnish with the chives. Serve with either fragrant Jasmine rice or your favorite noodles.
Feel free to add some nuts to the dish such as peanuts, almonds or cashews. You can also substitute the chicken with shrimp or even tofu if you prefer. Also, feel free to add your favorite vegetables such as mushrooms, snow peas, baby corn, peas, zucchini, mushrooms, snap peas, carrots…