Xinjiang ‘big bowl’ chicken

Xinjiang ‘big bowl’ chicken

The Real Food of China
Leanne Kitchen

Big, bold flavours and rustic cooking methods are the hallmarks of China’s far northwest, where the people are Turkic, not ethnically Chinese. They have more in common culturally and religiously (they’re mainly Muslim) with Central Asia, which Xinjiang borders. Cumin, chillies and sichuan peppercorns are common flavourings and vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes are widely eaten. In those parts, a dish like this would be accompanied by copious amounts of thick, chewy, wheat noodles. This recipe can easily be halved if you aren’t feeding a crowd.


Quantity Ingredient
2 x 1.25kg chickens
60ml vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
2 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 star anise
1 tablespoon sichuan peppercorns
400g small desiree or other allpurpose potatoes, peeled
1 large red capsicum, seeded and cut into 2 cm pieces
60ml sichuan chilli bean paste
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
500ml Chicken stock
500g roma tomatoes


  1. Ask your butcher to cut each chicken into eight pieces, or alternatively, you can cut the chickens yourself. To do this, place each chicken, breast side up, on a chopping board and remove both leg quarters (marylands) by cutting through the thigh joint nearest the body. Cut each leg quarter in half by cutting through the joint between the drumstick and thigh. Cut down either side of the backbone and discard the backbone (or save it for stock). Place the chicken breast side down, then cut lengthwise through the centre of the breastbone. Cut each breast in half on a slight diagonal just under the wing.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan. Add the chicken in batches and cook, turning often, for 5 minutes, or until browned. Remove the chicken to a plate.
  3. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, star anise and peppercorns to the pan and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Return the chicken to the pan, then add the remaining ingredients, except the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, partially cover the pan, and cook over a low heat for about 1 hour, or until the chicken and potatoes are tender. Cut the tomatoes into wedges and remove the seeds, then add to the chicken mixture and cook for 2–3 minutes to heat through. Transfer to a large bowl or platter and serve.
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