Chicken Bites with Spicy Maple Glaze

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 20 minutes

A sweet and hot dish that is reminiscent of a much loved American-Chinese take out, General Tso’s chicken. In this recipe maple syrup or honey provides enough natural sweetness and lets the chicken crispness shine through. It’s less sweet than your run-of-the-mill take out and can be prepared in less time than making a call and getting the delivery.

Ingredients:

US MeasuresMetricICYMI

Maple-Chile Sauce:

  • 3/4 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice plus zest of 1 lime
  • 1 Tbsp light soy sauce or to taste
  • 1 tsp pure chile powder, without cumin or other spices
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Chicken:

  • 450 g chicken breast, cut into 5 cm pieces
  • 60 g cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • Canola oil for frying
  • 1/2 head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced, garlic
  • 10 g cilantro (fresh coriander) leaves or Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • 30 g sliced scallions

Maple-Chile Sauce:

  • 180 ml maple syrup or honey
  • 120 ml fresh lime juice plus zest of 1 lime
  • 1 Tbsp light soy sauce or to taste
  • 1 tsp pure chile powder, without cumin or other spices
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Chicken:

  • 1 lb chicken breast, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • Canola oil for frying
  • 1/2 head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced, garlic
  • 1/4 cup cilantro (fresh coriander) leaves or Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions

Chile, chili or chilli?

Chile with an “e” at the end is the correct spelling of the spicy red or green pepper in Spanish speaking countries and parts of the US. The plural is “chiles”. However in most parts of the US the term “chili” like in “Chili con Carne” is used for the peppers and the pepper powder. That’s confusing!

“Chile Powder” is the condiment containing only chiles, whereas “Chili Powder” is a spice mix. McCormick’s chili powder contains “chili peppers (the incorrect spelling), spices (no further details), salt, and silicon dioxide”. What I normally use are fresh or dried chiles, they give the best aroma. I might use chile powder once in a while, like the “Ancho Chile Pepper” powder from McCormick for Mexican or Tex-Mex seasonings. The ancho chile powder contains only dried ancho chile peppers and, like most condiment powders, silicon dioxide. This is an anticaking agent deemed harmless by the FDA, albeit the EFSA (European Food Safety Agency) recently raised concerns due to the use of nanoparticles.

The third version, “chilli,” is the spelling used in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and some other countries”.

In many countries the term “Red Pepper Flakes” is used for dried, crushed chile.

Preparation:

Combine cornstarch, baking powder and salt in a shallow bowl. Dredge the chicken pieces in the mixture. Shake off the excess and set it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate while you prepare the sauce.

In a small sauce pan, combine maple syrup or honey, lime juice and zest, soy sauce, chile powder, red pepper flakes (optional) and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low. Cook sauce until slightly thickened and syrupy. Add the red pepper flakes (optional). Remove from the heat and let it cool.

Pour enough oil in a saucepan large enough to accommodate the chicken pieces without touching, about 1-2 inches (3-5 cm). Heat oil until it reaches a temperature of about 375° F/190° C. A bread crumb will sizzle immediately if temperature is correct. Add chicken and fry it for 3-4 minutes turning them around. Transfer chicken with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels. Keep it warm.

Discard the frying oil leaving just about 1 tablespoon of it in the pan. Bring it to a high heat. Add the broccoli florets, garlic and swirl them around. Cook until broccoli starts to look a bit charred around the edges and stalks, about 3-5 minutes. Broccoli should still have a bite.

Return chicken pieces to the saucepan. Add the maple-chili sauce and toss to glaze the chicken. Add broccoli, garlic, cilantro (fresh coriander) leaves and scallions. Bring all to a short gentle bubbling. Taste for extra chili and salt if necessary.

Serve with Jasmin rice.