On the menu: Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken. Not on the menu: Silkworm larvae, sheep penis or sea horse.
I have this week off work. But T’s daycare closed between Christmas and New Year’s, so the quiet break I was looking forward to didn’t pan out.
I had a meltdown when the daycare notified us about this a few weeks ago.
I love my child, I really do. I just love him more when he’s in daycare. But alas, one must carry on in life.
Cooking is one of my go-to therapy and brings me joy and comfort.
This week, I planned out a week’s worth of Asian dishes I’ve been wanting to make for a while but never had time to.
Last night, I made Taiwanese popcorn chicken with fried basil, a popular dish that originated in night markets in the streets of Taiwan.
I used boneless skinless thighs – juicier chicken! – and marinated them in oyster sauce, white pepper, five spice powder, and minced garlic for two hours. Then coated them with potato starch.
I fried the chicken for 4 minutes. For extra crisp, I fried them a second time for 30 seconds, throwing in basil leaves for the final 5 seconds.
I prepared a salt mixture that consisted of salt, cayenne pepper, white pepper and Sichuan peppercorn I toasted on a pan then grounded.
I mixed then sprinkled these spices on top of the freshly fried chicken and basil.
I served the chicken with Miss Vickie’s Sweet Southern BBQ chips and enjoyed the greasy goodness with a cold can of ginger ale.
The hubby and I were happy with how it turned out! The spices gave the chicken an authentic Asian night market taste and the potato starch coating gave it that Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken look. The fried basil was a nice touch.
This meal brought back warm memories of the hubby and my trip to China in November 2008.
It was shortly after Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics and two months after Pa passed away.
We had never travelled internationally together before and it was a great experience.
I’ll share a lengthier travel post one day, but for now, I’ll share our visit to the very unique Donghuamen Night Market in Beijing.
Located near the Forbidden City, it looks simple and innocent enough at a first glance.
But look a little closer and you’ll notice some interesting items on the menu.
Look behind the starfish and you’ll see intestines, beetles and centipedes!
That long white swirly thing on the stick is sheep penis. Yes, you read that right. Look, just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I’m putting any kind of penis in my mouth – deep fried or not!
And here’s the hubby hamming it up with fried silkworm larvae. He bought it just for the photo, he didn’t actually have the guts to bite into it.
I couldn’t even pretend to put it in my mouth.
Bugs and penises aside, it really was quite the experience walking through that market.
The following year, we were delighted to see this market featured in the penultimate episode of Season 14 of The Amazing Race.
Those poor racers had to eat some of those critters. No bluffing like the hubby and I did!
To be clear, we enjoyed many wonderful meals in China – like this very first breakfast at a restaurant we randomly walked into.
No penises in these bowls as far I could tell!
Fast forward to 13 years later last night, T kept himself busy while I prepared the meal, with enthusiastic support from the hubby.
As we enjoyed the meal, T sat at the table with us. He had eaten his dinner earlier.
He played with his kinetic sand set and formed small pieces of imaginary coated chicken that he placed into his imaginary fryer.
As I bit into a juicy piece of chicken, I looked at T’s playful joyful face. He smiled at me and I smiled back at him.