Citizens, this evocatively-named salad from China does indeed sound exactly like its preparation technique – in the original recipe, the chicken breast was beaten (bang bang!) with a wooden dowel or mallet to tenderize the breast meat and help the meat absorb the delicious sauce.
Today, with our modern chickens, this beating step is unnecessary but may be undertaken to help blow off some steam in an angry cook, if necessary! 😉
The sauce is what is known in Chinese as a “strange flavor” recipe, as it is sweet, spicy, sour, nutty and “numbing” (thanks to the liberal use of Sichuan peppercorns in the dressing) – all at the same time!
Bon bon chicken (also known as Bang Bang Ji (棒棒鸡) and Bang-Bang Chicken) is a very popular dish in China. The name Bang Bang chicken is derived from the manner in which the meat is tenderized using a stick or hammer to hit, or bang it.
According to a legend in Ming and Qing dynasties, there was a dedicated chef in the remote areas of Ya’an who enjoyed experimenting with foods. After studying and practicing the art of soup-mixing for a long time, he successfully invented a formula to produce aromatic chicken meat and broth. However, because of the low productivity, chicken was a luxury to enjoy and was only served on holidays.
Someone came up with a strategy: cut the whole chicken into thin slices and sell it by the slice. This strategy proved to be very effective, and “chicken slices” gained a good reputation. However, another problem occurred: a kitchen knife could not cut a whole chicken into slices evenly, and customers are often picky when making purchases.
However, it was found that beating the chicken into pieces with a giant stick would solve this problem. At the same time, juice broth infuses into the chicken and adds flavor. When preparing the dish, one holds a stick and another holds a knife; the sound made by the stick and the knife striking each other has a rhythmic, almost musical quality, hence the name “Bang Bang chicken”.
Citizens, I have happily and gratefully cribbed the vast majority of this recipe from the version I consider the best I’ve ever tried – the one created by the founder of Serious Eats that includes cooking the breast sous vide! I have tweaked his recipe by adding in some Sichuan green peppercorn oil (buy it here), added my own garnishes and adding some fresh sliced mung bean sheets and cucumber to make it more salad-like.
Battle on – The Generalissimo