Thanis Lim

All Rounder Chef and Food Journalist

Taiwanese Pop Corn Chicken

Taiwanese popcorn chicken or 鹹酥雞 is a popular snack in Taiwanese culture. Even in Taiwanese style restaurants or shops overseas like in Sunnybank, Brisbane Australia, or Boxhill in Melbourne Australia; you will see this dish. You can also find it in CheezeBox or Gripps for $5.00 a plate. 鹹酥雞 means Salty and Crispy Chicken if you translate it directly. Yes - it's nicely spiced with salt, pepper and five spice powder, then dipped in a special flour that gives its extra crisp, ! In fact, this is one of my favourite way to coat my meats to pan fry or deep fry. The secret is .... *drum rolls*

Sweet Potato Starch, get the one that's coarse and grainy like breadcrumbs texture. I guarantee the most crispy coating you can have if you use this type of starch to coat! This is also served with Thai basil that's deep fried quickly.

Here's the recipe:
1.5 kg boneless skinless chicken thigh (Cut into bite size pieces) : Chicken thigh has better texture than breast meat but if you want, you can still use chicken breasts.
1 cup thick soy sauce (or you can use teriyaki sauce)
1/4 cup sweet cooking rice wine (mirin is also a good choice)
3 tablespoons white pepper
1 tablespoon Chinese five spice powder (you can find in Hua Ho, and most Asian grocery stores)
2 whole garlic clove, minced. (I usually cut extras into tiny chips so that I can sprinkle those deep fried garlic with the chicken too. iYum!)
3 tablespoons honey or (2 tablespoons brown sugar or white sugar)
1 teaspoon sesame oil (usually they don't add this but I simply like the smell of sesame oil)
Two eggs (for coating later - helps to bind the flour and also add flavour)

For Coating:
Lots of sweet potato flour (aka SWEET POTATO starch, used for the coating of chicken) - get the more grainy ones.

Sweet fresh Thai basil (not the Italian Basil) for deep frying.

Spice Sprinkles (for sprinkling on the popcorn chicken)
2 tablespoons white pepper
1/2 tablespoons five spice powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
1/2 teaspoon curry powder

Toast the spice mixture on a pan (constantly shaking them to prevent burning) - once you can smell the fragrance - you hit the right spot!


1) First of all, mix all the ingredients (except the egg and flour) to marinate the chicken together first - give them a gentle massage to mix well.

2) Marinate the chicken with the marinade for half an hour to one hour - covered, in the fridge

3) Heat up the oil to the right frying temperature.

4) Deep fry the basil leaves first (make sure they are dry) till crispy and set aside (this also flavours the oil). Heat up oil to right temperature for frying the chicken.

5) Take out marinated chicken from fridge and 'massage' in your eggs.

6) Coat the chicken with the sweet potato starch (give them a bit of a rest before deep frying - this let's the moisture of the eggs and marinade cling better to the starch) and deep fry in small batches till golden - just about cooked - then scoop them and set aside. When you're about to serve - heat oil till hot, then add the chicken again to crisp them up in high temperature oil - this double frying technique ensures the batter to be hot and crispy!

7) Sprinkle the spice mix on the popcorn chicken at this time - serve next to basil leaves. Delicious on their own!

NOTE: The time to add the basil varies - some prefer to actually add it while you're frying your chicken to increase flavour - but I am skeptical as this suddenly lowers the oil temperature during frying - I would prefer to fry my basil leaves at the beginning. It's just my method.


  1. Haha, so you did decide to post this after all! Sounds good, I might try. (After substituting mirin with "white grape juice mixed with lemon zest". Will that really work? Can I just use lemon juice? Haha, pemalas... If I can even find white grape juice :S Oh well, next time maybe...)

  2. Anonymous11:11 AM

    I've tried yeesuan's chicken with using the right flour! its very very nice!!! once u pop u can't stop

  3. Anonymous3:10 AM

    Hi Mr Thanis .. excellent recipes.

    I was wondering if you happen to know how to make Taiwan XXL fried chicken?

    Have you ever tried Shihlin street snack XXL fried chicken ??
    I try making it using Di Gua Fen (sweet potato flour) that i bought from taiwan...
    the coating is not as crisp, thick and tender as Shihlin.
    Shihlin coating also have a sticky layer.

    Can you share any tips ???
    Thanks ..

  4. i love to eat grilled chicken taiwanese style ( which dusted with mixed of salt, 5spice powder, chilli powder, sugar..) have you got this recipe ? i've had this dish but don;t know how to make it exactly .