For this easy chicken recipe, I took inspiration from the Chinese classic Scallion Chicken (葱油鸡 - cōng yóu jī). In my version, I pan-fry the chicken like a steak which renders the skin as crispy as a potato chip while leaving the meat underneath both tender and juicy. The best part, though, is the fragrant ginger scallion sauce, which infuses the oil with fresh ginger and scallions to make an aromatic topping that creates a mouthwatering contrast to the savory chicken. Prep the chicken and scallion oil ahead of time, and this dish will come together in less time than it takes to cook a pot of rice.
Table of contents
Why This Recipe Works?
- Simply marinating the chicken with salt and Chinese rice wine seasons the chicken to the core while infusing it with loads of umami.
- Slowly pan-frying the chicken with the skin-side down renders out the fat, turning it into a potato chip crisp sheet of concentrated chicken flavor.
- Because the ginger scallion sauce uses oil as the base, it won't make the crispy chicken skin soggy.
- Chicken - I highly recommend skin-on boneless chicken thighs or legs for this. The skin acts as a protective layer to keep the meat from getting tough while basting it as it cooks, which keeps it from getting dry. It also renders out its fat making the layer of skin crispy like a potato chip. If you use skinless chicken, you need to add some oil to the pan before pan-frying the chicken.
- Shaoxing wine - Shaoxing is a Chinese rice wine from the Shaoxing area of Zhejiang province. It has a flavor similar to dry sherry or mirin, but because it's made by fermenting rice (instead of grapes), it contains a higher amino acid content, giving foods cooked with it a ton of umami. Japanese sake will make a suitable substitute if you can't find it.
- Scallions - A lot of recipes use just the white stem of the green onions for the sauce because the leaves can have a harsh green flavor. I don't like to waste the greens, so I tame the green flavor by pouring hot oil over them. This partially cooks the scallion, which tames its pungent flavor while releasing its aromas.
- Ginger - Ideally, you want to use fresh ginger for this (before it's cured and the skin becomes papery), but if you can't find it, look for ginger with smooth, shiny skin and try to use parts of the ginger that aren't too thick.
- Pepper - I like using finely ground white pepper for flavor and a bit of extra heat, but I know it's not to everyone's liking, so you could also use black pepper or chili flakes.
- Oil - The oil gets heated until it's very hot and then added to the minced ginger and scallions. This releases the aroma of the ginger and scallions without cooking them through. Any neutral oil with a relatively high smoke point like canola oil, grapeseed oil, or peanut oil will work. I used rice bran oil. I do not recommend using olive oil as it tends to have a flavor of its own, and has a low smoke point.
- Toasted sesame oil - Toasted sesame oil adds a marvelously nutty flavor to the sauce but has a low smoke point, so adding it at the end is essential.
How to Make Ginger Scallion Sauce
The first thing you need to do for the sauce is mince the ginger and scallions. Check out the video below for the most efficient way to do that. You can also use a food processor to speed things up, but I like the texture of hand chopping the aromatics so I don't recommend this unless you're really pressed for time. Next, add these to a heatproof bowl (I recommend using a metal bowl) and set it on a heat-resistant surface (the hot oil can make plastic melt or glass crack).
Add the toasted sesame oil, salt, and white pepper to the ginger and scallions and mix everything together.
Heat the vegetable oil in a pot until it reaches 380°F (190°C). Once it's up to temperature, slowly pour the hot oil over the aromatics. The oil is VERY hot, and the mixture will boil, so go slow and be careful not to splash any on yourself.
Stir the ginger and scallions with the oil and let it cool to room temperature. This can be prepared in advance, and it's more sauce than you'll need for the chicken, so store it in the fridge for up to a week and use leftovers in everything from fried rice to salads.
How to Make Crispy Chicken
Prepare the chicken by trimming any tough bits of gristle or connective tissue. You can also remove any large clumps of fat, but don't overdo it, or the chicken will end up dry. To marinate the chicken, drizzle the Shaoxing wine all over the meat and sprinkle both sides with salt. Let the chicken marinate with the skin side up. This can be prepared up to a day in advance and stored in the fridge.
When you're ready to cook the chicken, place the chicken in a cold non-stick pan with the skin side down. Set the pan over medium-low heat and slowly bring the temperature up. This will release some water from the skin, which will steam it. As the liquid evaporates, the skin will start to render fat, and you want to press on the chicken with tongs to ensure the skin browns evenly. Lift the thighs periodically to check and see if you're missing any spots, and focus on pressing down the areas that aren't browning.
After about five to six minutes, the skin should be evenly browned, so flip it over and use the tongs to press on thicker parts of the meat to ensure it cooks through evenly. This will take an additional two to three minutes.
Once the chicken is almost fully cooked, flip it over to crisp the skin. Continue pressing it down with tongs to encourage even crisping, and when the chicken reads 160°F (71°C), transfer it to a cutting board to rest for about ten minutes.
As chicken cooks, the proteins get wound up into tight bundles, which will cause the meat to release a lot of juices if you cut into it while it's still piping hot. That's why it's important to give it some time to rest so that the proteins can relax.
Once the chicken has rested, slice it up and serve it topped with ginger scallion oil.
Serve it With
This goes great with a batch of white rice, but if you want to get fancy, try serving this with some garlic rice or shrimp fried rice. For vegetables, a simple green salad with some tomatoes and creamy sesame dressing makes for a crisp, nutty contrast to the aromatic chicken, and a side of smashed cucumber salad would go beautifully as well.
How to Use Ginger Scallion Oil
This recipe makes double the amount of sauce you'll need for the chicken, but it will keep for over a week in the fridge and there are so many ways you can use it. That's why I tend to make it in big batches. It can also be frozen.
Once you have a batch you'll want to put it on everything, but I love having it on scrambled eggs, tossed with some boiled noodles, or used to season fried rice. It also makes for a good salad dressing whisked with some rice vinegar or lemon juice. It's also delicious spread onto avocado toast.
Other Weeknight Chicken Recipes
for crispy chicken
- 400 grams boneless skin-on chicken thighs
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
- ¼ teaspoon salt
for ginger scallion sauce
- 200 grams scallions (finely minced)
- 30 grams ginger (finely minced)
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon white pepper (to taste)
- For the 400 grams boneless skin-on chicken thighs, trim off any bits of tough connective tissue or excess fat.
- Drizzle 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine over the chicken, then sprinkle both sides evenly with ¼ teaspoon salt. Let the chicken marinate with the skin side up while you prepare the sauce.
- To make the ginger scallion sauce, add ⅓ cup vegetable oil to a small pot and heat to 380°F (190°C).
- While the oil is heating, mix the minced 200 grams scallions, 30 grams ginger, 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon white pepper to a large heatproof bowl and stir together. Ensure your bowl is on a heat-resistant surface, such as a folded towel or a trivet.
- When the oil comes up to temperature, slowly pour it over the ginger scallion mixture. It will bubble up, so adjust your pouring speed, so it doesn't boil over. Stir the sauce together.
- To fry the chicken, place it skin side down in a cold non-stick frying pan and turn on the heat to medium-low. Use tongs to press on the chicken to ensure the skin is making even contact with the pan and cook the chicken for 5-6 minutes on this side or until the skin is golden brown.
- Flip the chicken over and fry for another 2-3 minutes, pressing on the thick parts of the chicken to ensure it cooks through evenly.
- Flip the chicken one last time and continue pressing on it to ensure it's fully cooked (it should read 160°F or 71°C on an instant-read thermometer).
- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and rest for about 10 minutes. Slice the chicken and serve topped with a generous amount of ginger scallion sauce.