Bang Bang Chicken: The Authentic Sichuan Version

Sichuan’s famous bang bang chicken, or 棒棒鸡 (bangbang ji) is our latest addition to the Woks of Life repertoire. Over time, this dish has been utterly transformed into something unrecognizable by different chefs, but this recipe is our effort to revive the original!

What Is REAL Bang Bang Chicken?

Traditionally, Bang Bang Chicken is a dish of shredded chicken, julienned cucumber, and a spicy sauce. Don’t mistake this for the countless Americanized versions you might see online, which is basically fried chicken topped with mayonnaise. That version may be tasty, but it’s definitely not Bang Bang Chicken!

So “ji” means chicken, but let me explain the “bang bang” part! “Bang, 棒” in Chinese refers to an instrument used for hitting, beating and/or smashing. 

So exactly why do you have to “Bang Bang” the chicken? Like picking out the right pasta shape for Italian sauces, this method helps the chicken better absorb the sauce. We use a rolling pin for the job. Traditionally, if the chicken is poached whole and/or with bones, a little hammering helps cut through the bones, but with boneless chicken, the hammering simply helps loosen up the texture of the meat so you get a lovely shred that clings perfectly to the delicious sauce.

Furthermore, Bang Bang Chicken is not fried. Hilariously, it’s the exact opposite: it’s poached to capture the chicken’s unique aroma and provide the perfect canvas for the spicy sauce that goes over the top. Poached chicken gets a bad rap, but this recipe, and others like our White Cut Chicken or Bai Qie Ji 白切鸡 will hopefully change your mind.

As for whether you should use a whole chicken or not, we’ve used chicken breast to make things simple, but I prefer chicken thighs, which have more flavor. Restaurants often still use a whole chicken to yield more tender, juicy meat.

As for the sauce, there’s always plenty of spice and intense flavor in Sichuan cuisine. So with this poaching method, which you don’t see often in Sichuan cooking, of course there’s got to be a healthy smothering of sauce. This bang bang chicken sauce is well balanced, with sweet, tangy, spicy, and savory flavors.

This Bang Bang Chicken makes for a great appetizer or dish to round out a Chinese spread. But for all you clever cooks out there, I have one more idea to share with you: double the sauce, julienne the other half of the cucumber, and put the whole thing on top of noodles for a quick, lighter meal for two. Enjoy!

Bang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.comBang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.com

Authentic Bang Bang Chicken: Recipe Instructions

First, poach the chicken. In a small pot, add 2 cups water, 3 slices ginger and 1 scallion. Bring it to a boil, then add in the chicken breast. Once the water boils again, put the lid on and turn the heat to the lowest setting. Cook for 10-12 minutes. The chicken breast is done if the juice comes out clear when you poke the middle with a chopstick. Transfer the chicken breast to an ice bath to stop the cooking process and keep the chicken moist. Don’t discard the cooking water, as we’ll be using it later in the recipe.

Bang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.comBang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.com

Second, assemble the plate. Julienne the cucumber…

Bang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.comBang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.com

And spread it in an even layer on a shallow plate.

Bang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.comBang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.com

Now, hammer the chicken with a rolling pin to flatten the meat and break it up into shreds.

Bang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.comBang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.com

Layer the chicken on top of the cucumber.

Bang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.comBang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.com

Third, prepare the sauce. Mix together the following: ½ cup chicken stock (i.e., the cooking water from the chicken), 2 tablespoons light soy sauce, 4 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1½ tablespoons sesame oil, 1 tablespoon chili oil (or to taste), 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorn, ½ teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions.

Bang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.comBang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.com

Finally, pour the sauce over the chicken and cucumber, and serve.

Bang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.comBang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.com

Toss the chicken and cucumber to coat with the sauce just before you’re ready to dig in!

Bang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.comBang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.com

Bang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.comBang Bang Chicken, by thewoksoflife.com

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