Sichaun Chicken Breasts


Sublime Smoke

Published by Harvard Common Press

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Like many steamy regions of the world, China’s Sichuan, or Szechwan, province developed into a culinary hot spot. Chiles, garlic, ginger, citrus, and woodsy brown peppercorns commingle smartly in the cuisine, which owes a debt to Indian cooking but remains distinctively different. In this aromatic preparation the local spices get a boost from smoke. Supermarkets that carry any selection of Chinese condiments should have all the ingredients, though you can find them for a fraction of the cost in Asian markets.

NotesServing Suggestion: For extra pizzazz, pair the chicken with peanut-sauced noodles. Combine egg noodles or fettucine with a store-bought Asian sauce, or make your own by pureeing ½ cup each of soy sauce, fresh cilantro, and peanut butter, along with several tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of peanut or sesame oil, and enough garlic and Chinese chile paste to give it a kick. Round out your meal with stir-fried broccoli and red bell peppers.

Technique: Zest is the peel of citrus fruit, minus its bitter white pith. Because of its high oil content, zest adds concentrated flavor. Though zest can be prepared with a vegetable peeler or paring knife, an inexpensive gadget called a zester—widely available in kitchenware stores—does the job best. When a recipe calls for dried citrus peel or zest, it can be air-dried at room temperature or hurried along in a very low oven. You can also purchase pre-dried zest, but the homemade version tastes more fragrant and costs much less.

Serves4 to 6

Cooking Methodsmoking


Total Timeunder 4 hours

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationgluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, tree nut free



Taste and Texturegarlicky, hot & spicy, meaty, savory, smoky, spiced, sweet, tangy, tart


  • 6 boneless, skinless individual chicken breasts, pounded lightly
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1½ tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons tangerine or orange juice
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon dried tangerine or orange zest (see Notes)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 1½ teaspoons crushed brown Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese chile sauce or paste
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
  • Tangerine or orange wedges, for garnish


  1. At least 2 hours and up to the night before you plan to smoke the chicken breasts, combine all the paste ingredients in a mini food processor. Coat the chicken thoroughly with the paste. Wrap the chicken in plastic and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour.

  2. Bring your smoker to its appropriate cooking temperature.

  3. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the smoker and cook it until the juices run clear when a skewer is inserted into a breast, about 30 minutes at a temperature of 225° F to 250° F.

  4. Remove the chicken from the smoker and let it sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. Slice each breast and fan the pieces decoratively on individual plates. Garnish with the tangerine or orange wedges, squeezing some of the juice over the chicken before eating.


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