Taiwanese Salt and Pepper Chicken (Yan Su Ji)

Taiwanese Salt and Pepper Chicken, Basil Peppercorn Chicken or Yan Su Ji is a type of fried chicken very popular as a street food in Taiwan. Usually found on night markets this dish is one of the must try dishes when you visit Taiwan. Though it might sound just like another fried chicken well it is not as it has something special to offer. Like popcorn chicken it is prepared in small bite sized pieces, then coated with some sort of starch usually sweet potato or corn starch, seasoned with salt, pepper and five spice then traditionally cooked twice, first in very hot oil to lock the juices in, then on a low heat oil with basil to complete the cooking process.

While in its most common form only salt, pepper and five spice are used as a seasoning modern iterations may include allspice, seaweed powder, mustard powder or any flavouring possible, there are even filled version where honey or cheese are stuffed inside. Today we will be making the basic version, while the seasoning plays a part in making this delicious the key to making it awesome is cooking it twice, this makes sure that your chicken is juicy inside and with the perfect crunch on the outside.

Taiwanese Salt and Pepper Chicken (Yan Su Ji)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 3
  • 500g boneless chicken thighs, cut into small bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup sweet potato starch
  • 1 small bunch of basil leaves, stems removed
  • oil
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ tsp Chinese five spice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp white pepper
  • ½ tsp Chinese five spice
  • ½ tsp curry powder
  • salt
  1. In a bowl combine all marinade ingredients. Add the chicken, using your hands mix it well to evenly distribute the marinade. Set aside for 1 hour.
  2. Add ½ cup of the sweet potato starch into the bowl with chicken. Mix it again with your hand to evenly distribute the sweet potato starch.
  3. Prepare 2 deep fryers or pot with oil, on first fryer set heat it to 180C then on another set it at 150.
  4. In a large container that you can cover place the remaining sweet potato starch then add the chicken pieces and close the container. Toss to evenly coat the chicken.
  5. While waiting for the oil to heat up combine all seasoning ingredients in a small pan, place in medium-low heat until fragrant. Set it aside.
  6. Cook chicken in the 180C oil for 3 minutes or until lightly golden brown in colour. Remove chicken from the fryer set aside for 5 minutes to cool down.
  7. On the 150C fryer add the basil leaves followed by the chicken then continue to cook for 3-5 more minute or until cooked, this depends on how large is your chicken pieces. Remove the chicken from the fryer then set aside.
  8. Place chicken with the basil on serving platter, sprinkle roasted seasonings on top then serve while hot.



7 Responses

  1. Absolutely a fun dish! I bet this is super crispy and delicious. The addition of the fried basil is great idea. I can picture walking around the night markets and smelling this delicious dish being prepared. Take care

  2. Bet this is crispy and delicious! Fun dish — I haven’t had it in ages and ages. Now I’m craving it, as you might imagine. 🙂 Thanks!

  3. These sound really good and tasty, not plain as one would imagine as you say. But now my mind is stuck on the “filled version where honey or cheese are stuffed inside” part…yumm!

  4. suituapui says:

    I love this! Great with squid too.

  5. antonia pacheco says:

    can i substitute potato starch with corn starch …thank you

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