Taiwanese popcorn chicken is a beloved street food in Taiwan that has made its way into the hearts of food lovers all over the world. The crispy coating contrasts perfectly with the juicy and tender chicken, making it a great snack or meal option. Making Taiwanese popcorn chicken is not difficult, and with the help of an air fryer, it can be made healthier with less oil and less mess. In this article, we will take a closer look at the origins and benefits of using an air fryer, and provide a step-by-step guide on how to make perfect Taiwanese popcorn chicken.
The origins of Taiwanese popcorn chicken and how it became a popular street food
Taiwanese popcorn chicken, or “paigu wang” in Mandarin, originated in Taiwan in the 1980s and quickly gained popularity as a street food. It is said that the dish was created by a group of street vendors who were trying to find a way to make their chicken more appealing and standout amidst the other food stalls. They started to cut the chicken into small bite-sized pieces and seasoned them with various spices and herbs, then fried them to create a golden and crispy texture. The dish became so popular that it made its way to other parts of Asia, and eventually the world.
Today, Taiwanese popcorn chicken is not only a popular street food, but it has also become a staple in many Taiwanese restaurants around the world. It is often served as an appetizer or snack, and can be enjoyed with a variety of dipping sauces such as sweet chili, garlic mayo, or soy sauce.
Despite its popularity, there have been some concerns about the health effects of consuming fried foods on a regular basis. In response, some vendors and restaurants have started to offer baked or air-fried versions of the dish, which are lower in calories and fat. However, many people still prefer the traditional fried version for its crispy texture and bold flavor.
The benefits of using an air fryer to make this recipe
An air fryer is a kitchen appliance that uses hot air to fry food instead of oil, making it a healthier alternative to traditional frying methods. Air frying allows for a crispy texture without the added fat and calories of deep-frying. Additionally, it is faster and more convenient than using a stovetop. Air fryers can also be used for a variety of other foods such as vegetables, french fries, and even desserts.
Another benefit of using an air fryer is that it produces less odor than traditional frying methods. This is because the hot air circulates within the fryer, rather than escaping into the kitchen. This makes it a great option for those who want to cook without leaving a lingering smell in their home.
Furthermore, air fryers are easy to clean. Most models have removable parts that can be washed in the dishwasher, making cleanup a breeze. This is especially convenient for busy individuals who want to spend less time cleaning up after cooking.
A step-by-step guide to making perfect Taiwanese popcorn chicken in an air fryer
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 large eggs
- Non-stick cooking spray
- Preheat your air fryer to 400°F.
- In a bowl, mix together the flour, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.
- In another bowl, add the panko breadcrumbs.
- Coat the chicken pieces in the flour mixture, then dip them into the beaten eggs.
- Dredge the chicken pieces in the panko breadcrumbs, making sure they are well coated.
- Place the chicken pieces in a single layer in the air fryer basket.
- Spray the chicken pieces with non-stick cooking spray.
- Cook for 8-10 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown and crispy.
- Remove from the air fryer and serve hot.
Here are some additional tips to make your Taiwanese popcorn chicken even better:
- Marinate the chicken in buttermilk for at least an hour before coating it in the flour mixture. This will make the chicken even more tender and flavorful.
- For an extra kick of spice, add a pinch of cayenne pepper to the flour mixture.
And if you're looking for a dipping sauce to go with your popcorn chicken, try making a sweet and spicy chili sauce by mixing together:
- ¼ cup sweet chili sauce
- 1 tablespoon sriracha
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
Tips for choosing the right chicken and seasoning for this recipe
When making Taiwanese popcorn chicken, it is important to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. This cut of chicken is more flavorful and stays juicy and tender even after cooking. As for the seasoning, you can adjust the spice level to your liking by adding more or less paprika and black pepper. Garlic powder and salt should be used in moderation to avoid overpowering the other flavors.
Another important tip for this recipe is to marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes before cooking. This will help to infuse the flavors into the meat and make it even more delicious. You can use a simple marinade of soy sauce, rice wine, and ginger, or experiment with your own favorite flavors. Additionally, when frying the chicken, make sure the oil is hot enough to create a crispy exterior without overcooking the meat.
How to create the signature crispy coating for your popcorn chicken
The crispy coating is what makes Taiwanese popcorn chicken so addictive. To achieve the perfect coating, use a combination of all-purpose flour and panko breadcrumbs. The flour helps the egg mixture stick to the chicken, while the panko breadcrumbs create a light and crispy texture. Additionally, using an air fryer to cook the chicken will give it a crispy texture without the added fat and calories of traditional deep-frying.
Another tip for achieving the perfect crispy coating is to marinate the chicken in buttermilk before coating it. The acidity in the buttermilk helps to tenderize the chicken and also helps the coating to adhere better. You can also add spices and herbs to the buttermilk marinade to add extra flavor to the chicken.
For a healthier alternative to all-purpose flour, you can use almond flour or coconut flour. These flours are gluten-free and have a lower glycemic index, making them a great option for those with dietary restrictions or who are watching their carbohydrate intake. However, keep in mind that these flours may not create as crispy of a coating as all-purpose flour and panko breadcrumbs.
Different dipping sauce options to complement the flavors of your popcorn chicken
There are many different dipping sauce options that pair well with Taiwanese popcorn chicken. Some popular options include sweet chili sauce, garlic aioli, honey mustard, and sriracha mayo. You can also use a combination of sauces to create your own unique flavor.
Suggestions for side dishes and drinks that pair well with this dish
Taiwanese popcorn chicken can be served as a snack or a meal. If you are serving it as a meal, you can pair it with steamed rice or noodles. As for drinks, a cold beer or iced tea would be a refreshing complement to the dish.
Variations of the original recipe that you can try at home
There are many variations of the original Taiwanese popcorn chicken recipe that you can try at home. One popular variation is to add a spicy kick to the chicken by using cayenne pepper or hot sauce. Another variation is to marinate the chicken in buttermilk overnight to make it even more tender. You can also experiment with different seasonings and dipping sauces to find your own unique flavor.
Frequently asked questions about making Taiwanese popcorn chicken in an air fryer
- Can I use chicken breast instead of chicken thighs?
- How do I know when the chicken is cooked?
- Can I freeze the leftover chicken?
You can, but chicken thighs are more flavorful and tender than chicken breast.
Use a meat thermometer to ensure that the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165°F. Alternatively, you can cut into a piece of chicken to check if the juices run clear and the meat is no longer pink.
Yes, you can freeze the leftover chicken in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
Cooking tips and tricks to ensure your popcorn chicken turns out perfectly every time
- Do not overcrowd the air fryer basket as this will prevent the chicken from crisping up evenly.
- Use non-stick cooking spray to ensure that the chicken does not stick to the basket.
- Flip the chicken pieces halfway through cooking to ensure an even cook and crisp on all sides.
- Preheat the air fryer for 3-5 minutes before cooking to ensure that it is at the right temperature.
How to store and reheat leftover Taiwanese popcorn chicken
To store leftover Taiwanese popcorn chicken, place it in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. To reheat, place the chicken in an air fryer and cook for 4-6 minutes at 375°F or until heated through. Alternatively, you can reheat the chicken in a preheated oven at 350°F for 10-15 minutes.
Healthier alternative ingredients you can use while making this dish
If you want to make Taiwanese popcorn chicken even healthier, you can use whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour, and almond flour instead of panko breadcrumbs.
Ideas for serving Taiwanese popcorn chicken at parties or gatherings
Taiwanese popcorn chicken is a great party food and can be served as an appetizer or a main course. You can create a DIY popcorn chicken bar with different dipping sauces and toppings such as chopped green onions, sesame seeds, and fried garlic chips. Serve the popcorn chicken in small bowls or paper cones for easy serving and cleanup.
Final thoughts on why this recipe is a must-try for any fried food lover
Taiwanese popcorn chicken is a delicious and addictive dish that is easy to make and perfect for any fried food lover. Using an air fryer makes it a healthier alternative to traditional frying methods, without sacrificing the crispy texture. With a variety of seasoning and dipping sauce options, you can customize the flavors to your liking. Whether you are looking for a snack or a meal option, Taiwanese popcorn chicken is a must-try recipe that is sure to impress your taste buds.