If you've ever been to a Vietnamese/Chinese restaurant, chances are you tried the salt and pepper chicken and fell in love with it. Who wouldn't? It's crunchy fried chicken coated in a seemingly boring yet flavorful salt and pepper mixture.
The star ingredient is obviously the salt. It's not any ordinary salt. The salt used in this recipe is toasted until golden brown. It's then sprinkled onto the fried chicken at the very end of the cooking process. This method of toasting salt is a Chinese cooking secret that brings out the salt hidden flavor. For the recipe below, I further enhanced the flavor by using sea salt instead of boring table salt. Why use mediocre salt when you can use the God of all salts?
The other star ingredient but more infamously known, is MSG. What is MSG? It stands for Monosodium Glutamate. It's a flavor enhancer when combined with something savory. It provides that savory flavor known as umami, a taste we previously didn't know existed. MSG occurs abundantly in nature yet we condemn it in Chinese/Vietnamese cooking. We should take advantage of this culinary scientific discovery and use it in our cooking.
If you want to replicate a restaurant dish and choose not to include the MSG that is specified in the recipe, yet complain that it doesn't taste the same, then I will look for you ... I will find you and ... I will ̶k̶i̶l̶l̶ kick you.
Enjoy the recipe below =)
Vietnamese Fried Salt & Pepper Chicken (Ga Rang Muoi)
- 4 lbs bone-in chicken (I like using wings and drumettes)
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 teaspoons MSG
- 1/2 teaspoon 5 spice powder
- 1/2 teaspooon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 egg
- 1 cup corn starch
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
- 4 stalks scallions (slice into 1-inch segments)
- 4 cloves garlic (slice thin)
- 1 large shallot (slice thin)
- 4 red chili peppers (optional, slice thin)
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing cooking wine
Salt & Pepper Mixture
- Marinate the chicken with sea salt, MSG, 5 spice powder and black pepper for at least 30 minutes.
- To make the salt and pepper mixture, heat up a small frying pan (no oil need) and add salt. On low heat, pan fry the salt for 10 minutes until golden brown. Set aside to cool. Once completely cooled, add sugar and black pepper. Mix well to combine.
- In a small bowl, whisk egg white until light and frothy. Add chicken and beaten egg white in a large plastic bag (or large bowl) and toss chicken is until evenly coated with egg whites. Add corn starch and toss again until chicken is evenly coated with corn starch.
- Heat up vegetable oil to 350°F, and deep fry the chicken in batches (about 10 minutes per batch). Drain well on a wired rack.
- Heat up a large wok (no oil needed), add scallions, garlic, shallot and chili peppers. Add fried chicken and give it quick toss with the aromatics. Sprinkle salt and pepper mixture and toss until evenly coated.
- Add cooking wine along the edges of the wok. Toss the chicken one last time. Serve immediately for best results.