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Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 1 Tbsp chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp ginger chopped or grated with juice
  • 2 tsp garlic chopped
  • ½ tsp 5-spice powder
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper
  • 8 oz skinless chicken breast pierced a few time with a fork & cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup sweet potato flour
  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 1 tsp cayenne and white pepper each mixed in a small bowl
  • Slices of lemon/lime


  • Marinade: Combine cooking wine, soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic, 5-spice powder and white pepper in a bowl.
  • Work the marinade well into the chicken a few times, using your hands. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight.
  • When you are ready to cook, toss and coat the chicken pieces in flour, making sure to cover all the sides and any folds. Shake off excess flour and set aside in a separate bowl.
  • Heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (or an oil with a high smoking point) in a pan/wok. When a drop of water tossed in the oil dances, carefully put basil leaves into the oil. Using a splatter guard if necessary. Turn it 2-3 times, no more than 6-7 seconds, and remove using a slotted spatula or a 'spider' utensil. Place leaves on paper towels to drain. The leaves should still hold their shape but crispy, even breaking into pieces when touched.
  • Add another 1 Tbsp oil to the pan/wok.
  • When the oil is hot again, fry the chicken. Do not overcrowd as the oil must remain hot. You may have to do this in 2-3 batches. Turn it a few times until they turn a light golden color. Remove and drain on paper towels.
  • Assembly: Place the chicken in a mixing bowl. Add pepper mixture and toss well. Add some basil leaves and give it a quick shake. You can also crush the basil leaves with fingers and mix that instead.
  • Serve immediately with slices of lemon/lime and extra basil.


To make up for not using juicier thigh meat, I liberally pierced and marinated the chicken overnight. I used breast meat as a healthier option.
If you like a thicker batter, replace sweet potato flour with corn starch. Potato starch (not potato flour) can also be used for a lighter, crispy texture.
For more batter and bite, coat the chicken pieces more generously with flour instead of shaking off the excess.
Frying with sweet potato flour or potato starch will not result in a deep brown color, only a light golden color. Do not over-fry as the chicken will dry out.
Increase cayenne pepper to white pepper ratio for a spicier chicken.
Add curry powder to the batter for an exotic surprise.