My glorious Citizens! The Yellow-Robed Imperial who ALONE is TFD has noted from His Dragon Throne on-high that a significant number of Chinese recipes still remain undocumented to the Citizens of TFD Nation! With such a massive number of pure and region-specific recipes in the cuisine, this is of-course to be expected – but today, I wish to bring in a rather unique HYBRID recipe from the Taiwanese canon – Taiwanese salt and pepper chicken nuggets!
The Taiwanese cuisine is a unique amalgam of Chinese recipes from the south of China (mostly from Fujian province) with strong Japanese influences as they occupied the Island for many years and left an indelible stamp on Formosan cuisine (the old name for the island just before being taken over by Japanese rule was in fact Formosa!). Buckle up for a truly delicious recipe and some fascinating history of Taiwan and Japan, my Citizens!
Japan had sought to expand its imperial control over Taiwan (formerly known as “Highland nation” (Japanese: 高砂国, Hepburn: Takasago-koku)) since 1592 when Toyotomi Hideyoshi undertook a policy of overseas expansion and extending Japanese influence southward.
Several attempts to invade Taiwan were unsuccessful, mainly due to disease and armed resistance by aborigines on the island. In 1609, the Tokugawa Shogunate sent Arima Harunobu on an exploratory mission of the island. In 1616, Murayama Toan led an unsuccessful invasion of the island.
In November 1871, 69 people on board a vessel from the Kingdom of Ryūkyū were forced to land near the southern tip of Taiwan by strong winds. They had a conflict with local Paiwan aborigines, and many were killed. In October 1872, Japan sought compensation from the Qing dynasty of China, claiming the Kingdom of Ryūkyū was part of Japan.
In May 1873, Japanese diplomats arrived in Beijing and put forward their claims; however, the Qing government immediately rejected Japanese demands on the ground that the Kingdom of Ryūkyū at that time was an independent state and had nothing to do with Japan. The Japanese refused to leave and asked if the Chinese government would punish those “barbarians in Taiwan”.
The Qing authorities explained that there were two kinds of aborigines in Taiwan: those directly governed by the Qing, and those unnaturalized “raw barbarians… beyond the reach of Chinese culture. Thus could not be directly regulated.” They indirectly hinted that foreigners traveling in those areas settled by indigenous people must exercise caution.
The Qing dynasty made it clear to the Japanese that Taiwan was definitely within Qing jurisdiction, even though part of that island’s aboriginal population was not yet under the influence of Chinese culture. The Qing also pointed to similar cases all over the world where an aboriginal population within a national boundary was not under the influence of the dominant culture of that country.
The Japanese nevertheless launched an expedition to Taiwan with a force of 3,000 soldiers in April 1874. In May 1874, the Qing dynasty began to send in troops to reinforce the island. By the end of the year, the government of Japan decided to withdraw its forces after realizing Japan was still not ready for a war with China.
By the 1890s, about 45 percent of Taiwan was under standard Chinese administration, while the remaining lightly populated regions of the interior were under aboriginal control. The First Sino-Japanese War broke out between Qing dynasty China and Japan in 1894 following a dispute over the sovereignty of Korea.
Following its defeat, China ceded the islands of Taiwan and Penghu to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki, signed on April 17, 1895. According to the terms of the treaty, Taiwan and Penghu (isles between 119˚E-120˚E and 23˚N-24˚N) were to be ceded to Japan in perpetuity. Both governments were to send representatives to Taiwan immediately after signing to begin the transition process, which was to be completed in no more than two months.
Since Taiwan was ceded by treaty, the period that followed is referred by some as the “colonial period,” while others who focus on the fact that it was the culmination of war refer to it as the “occupation period.” The cession ceremony took place on board a Japanese vessel because the Chinese delegate feared reprisal from the residents of Taiwan.
Though the terms dictated by Japan were harsh, it is reported that Qing China’s leading statesman, Li Hongzhang, sought to assuage Empress Dowager Cixi by remarking: “birds do not sing and flowers are not fragrant on the island of Taiwan. The men and women are inofficious and are not passionate either.”
On May 10, 1895, Admiral Kabayama Sukenori was appointed the first Japanese governor-general of Taiwan and the Japanese occupied Taiwan until the end of WWII – exactly 50 years. During those five decades, Taiwanese cuisine was forever altered to include MANY Japanese ingredients, aesthetics and sensibilities that persist in the country to this very day.
The loss of Taiwan would become a rallying point for the Chinese nationalist movement in the years that followed. Arriving in Taiwan, the new Japanese colonial government gave inhabitants two years to choose whether to accept their new status as Japanese subjects or leave Taiwan. Less than 10,000 out of a population of around 2.5 million chose to leave Taiwan.
Taiwan was Japan’s first colony and can be viewed as the first step in implementing their “Southern Expansion Doctrine” of the late 19th century. Japanese intentions were to turn Taiwan into a showpiece “model colony” with much effort made to improve the island’s economy, public works, industry, cultural ‘Japanization’, and to support the necessities of Japanese military aggression in the Asia-Pacific.
Japanese administrative rule of Taiwan ended after the end of hostilities with Japan in August 1945 during the World War II period, and the territory was placed under the control of the Republic of China (ROC) with the issuing of General Order No. 1. Japan formally renounced its sovereignty over Taiwan in the Treaty of San Francisco effective April 28, 1952.
The experience of Japanese rule, ROC rule, and the February 28 massacre of 1947 continue to affect issues such as Taiwan Retrocession Day, national identity, ethnic identity, and the formal Taiwan independence movement.
So – as you can see, the Japanese interest in Taiwan is centuries-old and has in fact had a massive impact on both the historical and culinary influences that make up today’s Taiwan. This particular dish is a perfect reflection of the unique hybridization of Taiwanese cuisine and is a delicious reminder of how different culinary influences can make for a spectacular recipe indeed! In an interesting parallel when it comes to hybrid fusion for Asian-style fried chicken but in – of all places, IRELAND – check out this exceptional recipe for Irish “Spice Bag” chicken and chips!
So-called “salt and pepper” dishes in the Chinese culinary canon are something of a misnomer as they are seasoned with a LOT more than just salt and pepper! First off, the pepper used is classically white pepper, not black – it is IMPERATIVE that you use a potent white peppercorn of top-quality in this recipe! Cambodian Kampot white pepper is the best in the world and you can easily buy from this quality vendor here.
In addition to salt and pepper, scallions and hot peppers are a critical part of the seasoning in this dish – as is a truly obscene amount of garlic! Truly, this seasoning “detritus” covering the fried chicken is delicious and for many is the highlight of the meal itself (I count myself in this rarefied group). Sesame oil also plays an important flavor role!
Due to Taiwan’s location, it has always experienced a huge range of trade from many different countries, including Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, India and the European traders of the 16th century – I have chosen to augment My version of the classic recipe with ingredients from all these countries in addition to the fundamentals from Fujian Province and Japan!
For example, I have made the highly-unorthodox (and totally delicious!) decision to include some deep-fried black garlic cloves from Korea as part of the “detritus” – you can easily purchase top-quality peeled cloves from here. I also like to use a tiny bit of finely-ground curry leaf powder from India for its specific flavor profile – buy fresh organic leaves from Etsy here.
The dipping sauce for these delicious fried chicken breast nuggets includes oyster sauce, as is the norm for the recipe – but I call for Thai oyster sauce, which happens to be the best in the world and is easily purchased from Amazon here. Also used in the dipping sauce is Vietnamese fish sauce, and Red Boat 40 Degree North is the best you can buy! The use of deep-fried Basil leaves as a garnish is a classic of southeast Asian cuisine (and European as well!).
Sichuan peppercorns are also in the seasoning blend – and these are the best and freshest you can obtain in the United States! Rice flour is what I use to coat the chicken breast pieces for ultimate crispiness – this is a good brand. Lastly, given the divided history of Taiwan, you can use either Chinese Shaoxing rice wine in the marinade or Japanese mirin – they’re both excellent!
Citizens, this recipe is a perfect example of how an occupying country can influence a country’s entire cuisine if they are there for long enough – while the Taiwanese have no love lost for the Japanese, this recipe is a most harmonious example of culinary détente! Please do give it a try at your earliest possible opportunity!
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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