Concubine’s Chicken Recipe

Named after a famous concubine from the Tang dynasty known for her hedonism (particularly when it came to food), this sweet, sour, and slightly spicy dish is sure to satisfy every one of your cravings.
Photo by Jenny Huang

Serves 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes

Back in the Tang dynasty, there was a famous voluptuous concubine named Yang Guifei 杨贵妃. She was considered one of the great beauties of ancient China, and her influence over the emperor in Chang-an (ancient Xi’an) brought music, art, dance, and food to the forefront of high culture. Bonus: She was from the nearby Shanxi province. We named this dish after her not just because she was from our region, but also because she was a little hedonistic, a woman who knew what she liked and ate what she wanted. We like to think she would’ve loved this dish of juicy dark-meat chicken, with every flavor you could possibly crave: sweet, sour, and just a little spicy. A perfectly hedonistic meal. 



10 ounces|280 grams boneless chicken thighs 
¼ teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon Shaoxing cooking wine, divided 
¼ teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon white pepper powder, divided 
2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
1 dried red chile pepper (I use Tianjin chiles), soaked for 1 minute in warm
2 star anise pods 
½ tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns 
2 teaspoons Pixian bean sauce 
1 green onion, trimmed and cut into 2-inch (5 cm) segments 
1-inch (2.5 cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced 
½ longhorn pepper (or another thin, fresh, moderately hot chile pepper), sliced 
½ red bell pepper, cubed
½ teaspoon soy sauce
½ yellow potato, peeled and cubed
⅛ teaspoon granulated sugar
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced 
½ red onion, chopped 


  1. With a sharp cleaver or chef’s knife, chop the chicken thighs into 2-inch (5-cm) cubes. You may remove the skin if you wish. Dab off excess liquid with paper towels. 
  2. In a large bowl, add the chicken, ¼ teaspoon of the cooking wine, the cornstarch, and ¼ teaspoon of the white pepper powder. Mix together with your hands.
  3. In a large pot or wok, heat the vegetable oil over high heat. Dry off the soaked chile and add it to the pan, along with the star anise and Sichuan peppercorns. Fry until fragrant, up to 30 seconds. Strain out from oil and discard. 
  4. Turn the heat down to medium and add the Pixian bean sauce, green onion, and ginger. Stir to combine. Turn the heat up to high before adding the chicken, longhorn pepper, bell pepper, and the remaining 1 tablespoon cooking wine. Stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce and 1 cup (240 ml) water. Stir and cook for 10 minutes. 
  5. Add the potatoes. Stir and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the sugar, the remaining ¼ teaspoon white pepper powder, and the garlic. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add the onion, stir to combine, and serve. 

Reprinted from XI’AN FAMOUS FOODS: THE CUISINE OF WESTERN CHINA, FROM NEW YORK'S FAVORITE NOODLE SHOP by Jason Wang with Jessica Chou. Photography by Jenny Huang. Published by ABRAMS.

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