Appetizers are dishes that I’m always willing to cook. There is something about bite-sized food popping with flavor that appeals to me. We were exploring various types of street food, which in my mind is the larger-scale example of appetizers, and came across popcorn chicken. Looking at the endless varieties, we discovered sweet and spicy popcorn chicken, which is a bite-sized chicken covered in a flavorful sauce. Yes please!
This recipe for Sweet and Spicy Crunchy Popcorn Chicken is bite-size perfection, lightly covered in corn starch for frying and then cooked in the tangy sauce. The most difficult part of the recipe was trying not to eat it all before we took the final photos.
Prepping the Ingredients
Boneless and skinless chicken thighs are ideal for this dish, as the prep work is quite easy. Using a Boning Knife, remove any large portions of fat from the thighs and cut the chicken into 1-1/2 inch pieces.
Take a teaspoon and scrap away the outside skin from the fresh ginger. Using a 5" Petite Santoku, mince it for both the marinade and the sauce. If you’ve never minced ginger before, check out our infographic on how to do it.
Mix the rice vinegar, minced ginger, salt and pepper in a large bowl and add the chicken, ensuring each chicken piece is coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, place it in the refrigerator and let sit for up to an hour.
Cooking the Popcorn Chicken
This recipe does not require a great deal of oil for frying, especially if you fry the chicken in batches. Take the chicken out of the marinade and roll each piece in corn starch. Again, do this in batches so each piece is coated properly.
Once your oil is up to temperature, place a few pieces of chicken into the oil and fry for 2-3 minutes until the chicken is golden brown. Remove the chicken and place on paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Continue this process until all the chicken is cooked. I always use a splatter guard over my pan when frying as this minimizes the mess and clean-up.
Mix the sauce ingredients together and place in a skillet over medium heat until it boils, reduce the heat and continue to stir until the sauce thickens. Add the fried chicken and coat the pieces, cooking until the chicken is warmed through.
Pour the chicken and sauce onto a serving dish and garnish with sesame seeds and green onions. Alternatively, you can place the popcorn chicken into individual serving containers and garnish.
The only problem we found with this Sweet and Spicy Crunchy Popcorn Chicken was that it was gone too fast. It was that delicious, There is something about the sauce that had us walking by and popping a piece into our mouths every time we passed the dish. Give it a try – trust me, you won’t be disappointed!
Sweet and Spicy Crunchy Popcorn Chicken
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 5 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 18 ounces boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 ½-inch pieces.
- 1 cup corn starch
- 2 cups canola oil
- Sesame seeds, garnish
- Green onions, chopped for garnish
- 1/3 cup ketchup
- 1 1/2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean red chili paste)
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
- In a large bowl, mix the rice wine vinegar, ginger, salt and pepper. Add the chicken and mix well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and up to an hour.
- Take each chicken piece out of the marinade and coat individually with the corn starch. It’s best to do this in batches to ensure the pieces are well covered.
- Pour the canola oil into a wok or deep saucepan over medium heat until the temperature of the oil reaches 350 F. Carefully add the chicken pieces to the hot oil, making sure not to overcrowd the pan (you may need to do this in batches). Fry the chicken pieces until they are golden brown and cooked from the inside (typically 2 to 3 minutes). Remove the chicken and place on paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Repeat this process as necessary. Set chicken aside.
- In a large bowl, mix the ketchup, gochujang, maple syrup, brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and ginger. Pour the sauce into a skillet, over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce the heat slightly. Stir the sauce constantly until it thickens slightly (2-3 minutes).
- Add the fried chicken to the sauce and coat thoroughly. Make sure the chicken is warmed through.
- Pour the chicken and sauce onto a serving dish and garnish with sesame seeds and green onions.