Chinese Hot Chicken Recipe

Marinate chicken in buttermilk before dredging and frying until shatteringly crispy, then finish by brushing liberally with a tingly, rich chili paste.
Photo by Farideh Sadeghin

Serves 4
Prep time: 45 minutes
Total time: 8 hours


for the seasoning blend:
6 tablespoons|75 grams kosher salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar 
2 tablespoons MSG

for the chicken:
1 whole (3-4 pound|1.36-1.8 kg) chicken, air-chilled, lovingly raised, preferably ENTJ personality type
4 cups|946 ml buttermilk
6 tablespoons|105 grams Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons|65 grams all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons five-spice powder
2 tablespoons seasoning blend
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder


for the chili paste:
7 ounces|200 grams dried Tianjin chilies (or any bright red dried chili, though I don't recommend chili de arbol unless you're a serious masochist)
1 cup|75 grams Szechuan peppercorns
2 tablespoons rice vinegar powder
1 ½ tablespoons seasoning blend
2 teaspoons fine granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon smoke powder
2 cups|500 ml warm duck fat

for the dredge:
3 cups|440 grams all-purpose flour
¾ cup|115 grams potato starch
¾ cup|110 grams corn starch
3 tablespoons seasoning blend


  1. Prepare the chicken: Cut the chicken into 10 pieces (or ask your butcher to do so!), reserving the back for a future application of sauce or stock. Don't make grandma mad.
  2. Combine all liquid and dry ingredients together in a bowl and mix into a slurry.
  3. Marinate your cut chicken pieces, taking care to preserve the integrity of the skin, in the seasoned slurry for at least 6 hours and up to 48. In the refrigerator, mind you, no salmonella, Chef!
  4. Prepare the chili paste: It is ideal to dry the chilis in an oven or dehydrator overnight to make them extra crispy. You can then easily sift out some of the seeds if you'd like to lower the spice level. If drying in the oven, heat it to 300°F and spread the peppers on a baking sheet into an even layer. Bake until just crisp, about 7 minutes. Cool completely.  
  5. Toast the Szechuan peppercorns in a medium, dry pan over medium heat until aromatic, about 5 minutes.
  6. In a blender, blend the chilis, peppercorns, and all of the seasonings until a fine, uniform powder has been achieved. This may take some jiggling depending on how dry your chilis were.
  7. Warm the duck fat in a pan until liquid and just above body temperature, do not heat past 120°F.
  8. Pour the duck fat into the dry mix and blend with a whisk until a uniform, aromatic, highly enticing paste has formed. Reserve warm.
  9. Dredge and fry the chicken: Heat 3-inches oil in a large saucepan until a deep-fry thermometer reads 325°F. Take your chicken out of its buttermilk spa treatment but do not discard the excess marinade. Extra goop is good.
  10. In a large bowl, mix all the dredge ingredients together until combined. Take each piece of chicken and give it a light smattering of extra goop and place into your dredge. Ensure there are no naked spots and that every bit of chicken is covered. Do not let the chicken sit too long in the dredge, this is not Sean Brock style chicken, the gluten in the marinade has already been hydrated. Now it's time to bring this party to the crispity crunchy zone.
  11. Shake off excess dredge and, working in batches, carefully fry the chicken until golden and crisp and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 165°F, about 7 to 8 minutes for breast pieces, 5 minutes for wings, and 9 minutes for thighs and drumsticks. Remove chicken from the fryer and place onto a sheet tray set with a wire rack. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then fry again at 325°F for another 2 minutes, or until reallllllly f-ing crispy.
  12. Transfer the chicken from the fryer back to the sheet tray set over a wire rack. While the chicken is still hot, brush it liberally with your chili-duck-fat-paste. Flip to the other side and brush it liberally again with your chili-duck-fat-paste. Allow the chicken to drain and rest for 8 to 10 minutes. Trust me, it's too hot right now anyway.
  13. Once the chicken has rested, eat it. That's all. Make a mess. Get dirty with it. Whether you want to make this for a first date is going to depend entirely on your date. If they are down to get messy and spicy though, I would say that's a major win for NYC online dating which is an infamously defensive and noncommittal space.

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