Recipe from David Schuttenberg, Kwei Fei, Charleston
For the spice blend:
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon Tianjin chile flakes*
1½ teaspoons ground Sichuan peppercorns
2 teaspoons sugar
For the chicken:
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 bunch scallions, white parts sliced into 1-inch batons and greens sliced into thin rounds for garnish
¼ cup Sichuan peppercorns
1 cup whole Tianjin chiles
Spicy chile crisp to taste
Special equipment: Deep-fry thermometer
*Make Tianjin chile flakes by placing a handful of whole chiles in a food processor or blender and processing until flakes form, taking care to not overprocess into a powder.
Make the spice blend: In a mixing bowl, combine sesame seeds, chile flakes, Sichuan peppercorn, and sugar. Set aside.
Make the chicken: In a mixing bowl, toss chicken pieces in kosher salt; set aside for 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine chicken, eggs, and cornstarch, stirring until chicken is well-coated. (It’s okay to have some lumps, you don’t want the batter to be perfectly smooth.) Add 2 tablespoons of the canola oil to battered chicken and toss well—this helps the chicken pieces separate more easily when frying.
In a wok or cast-iron skillet fitted with deep-fry thermometer, heat remaining 1 cup canola oil to 350 degrees. Working in batches, lower chicken pieces into oil and fry, stirring regularly, until coating is crispy and chicken is just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Once all chicken is fried, pour off all but 2 tablespoons of oil from wok and return to heat. Working quickly, add garlic, ginger, and scallion batons to hot oil and stir fry briefly until fragrant. Add Sichuan peppercorns and toast, taking care not to burn the mixture. Add whole chiles and toast. Return chicken to pan, add spice blend, and toss well.
Remove from heat and toss entire dish in as much spicy chile crisp as you like. Serve on a large platter and garnish with scallion greens.