A couple of years back my friend Kyle told me about a hole in the wall restaurant in my neighborhood that I had to try, called Spicy Village. I’ve written about it here and about their signature dish Big Tray of Chicken. A heady, brothy, complex chicken dish with a pepper kick and wonderful chewy hand pulled noodles that are a great way to soak up all that spicy chicken goodness.
Both Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese and author and NYT writer Mark Bittman have published recipes for this dish. Danny has created his own version of the dish and Mark has actually gone and observed them making it at Spicy Village. After having made both version and played around with the recipes I have come up with my own version.
A few things, I’m not a big fan of Sichuan peppercorns, they are OK but in moderation, so you may want to add more than I do! I love cumin and fennel so….
Mark Bittman suggests serving the dish with rice, but I feel the noodle are what brings the dish together, the rice was fine, but I ultimately missed the noodles.
Here it is, my version of the much written about Big Tray of Chicken (yes I know the translation at the restaurant is “big tray chicken” but for whatever reason I feel the need to correct it).
Spicy Village’s Spicy Chicken with Hand Pulled Noodles
If you have a clever, and are so inclined, you can hack the chicken thighs and legs into bite size pieces (which is how it is done in the restaurant). You could also go all WASPY and just use boneless chicken thigh meat (so you would add the chicken later as it would need less cooking time) or take the middle path which is what I do and use bone in thighs and drumsticks.
Each renders a slightly different end result, the smaller bone in pieces are most authentic and absorb more flavor because of their size (same is true if you use bite size boneless thigh meat). For the home cook I think thighs and drumsticks works well and are the best compromise.
Spicy Chicken Spicy Village Style
Season 3-4 pounds of bone in chicken thighs and drum sticks with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of freshly grated black pepper. Let sit until the chicken comes to room temperature.In a large 4″ deep skillet add enough oil to cover the bottom (about a 1/4 cup of Safflower or Sunflower or organic Peanut oil) over high heat. When the oil is hot brown the chicken on both sides. Depending on the size of pan you may need to do this in batches, add more oil if the chicken starts to stick. Reserve the cooked chicken on a plate. In the oil over medium heat lightly fry 8 thinly sliced cloves of garlic until they just start to turn color. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon.In a separate dry cast iron skillet at 1 teaspoon of Sichuan Peppercorns, 2 Teaspoons of Fennel Seeds and 2 Teaspoons of Cumin seeds. Roast over medium high heat until fragrant – 30 seconds. Remove and put into a mortar and pestle and roughly grind the seeds into a gravel like powder, there should be visible seed remnants.Turn the oil you cook the chicken in to medium high heat and add 1 teaspoon of Sichuan Peppercorns, 2 Teaspoons of Fennel Seeds, 2 Star Anise and 2 Teaspoons of Cumin seeds, fry for 30 second then add the partially ground seeds from the mortar. Add to this 1-2 crushed hot red chili peppers (Arbol chili – or about 2 teaspoons of chili flakes) 2 Tablespoons of Spicy Chili Bean Paste stir together to cook the spice paste for 30 second then add the chicken and any accumulated juices and the garlic.Stir the chicken until it is as well coated with the spice mixture as you can. Add: 1/2 cup of soy sauce, 2 Tablespoons of Fujian Cooking Wine, 2 cups of Lager beer (TsingTao) and 2 cups of Chicken Stock (or water) and 2 Tablespoons of Sugar bring to boil.Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for an hour.
Start to make the hand pulled noodles now. I have already posted the recipe here. Be patient it takes a while to get the knack of pulling them but its fun and even if they aren’t perfect they still taste great.
Add 4 Yukon Gold Potatoes (I never peel them but feel free) cut into large bite sized chunks and continue to cook until the potatoes are soft. Before serving taste – you may want to add more pepper or some more sugar. Garnish with roughly chopped cilantro.To serve spoon lots of the soup over hand pulled noodles and top with chicken and potatoes. Of course if you want rice is also an option, but for me it’s all about the noodles.