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Asian Crispy Fried Chicken (Popcorn Chicken)

Martin Yan. The mere mention of the name Martin Yan conjures up visual pictures of my childhood days in Penang, Malaysia.

I am a fan of Martin Yan, since I was little. I remember my family and I would crowd in front of the TV watching “Yan Can Cook.” Back then, I didn’t understand English completely but I loved the entertaining cooking show that Chef Yan brought to the world. Chef Yan was always having fun in the kitchen; he was witty, humorous, had mad chopping and cutting skills. Most of all, the dishes he made were always mouthwatering, he did it with such grace and sophistication. Chef Yan is the master TV chef for Chinese food.

Martin Yan’s China is his most recent cookbook and this crispy fried chicken is an adaptation of his recipe. When Chef Yan was traveling in Guangzhou, he chanced upon a street vendor selling crispy chicken nuggets flavored with Chinese five spice powder—an aromatic yet deeply-flavorful Chinese ingredient. For this specific street-style crispy fried chicken recipe, it calls for five spice powder, a common ingredient in Chinese cooking.


The Chinese five spice powder lends a nice aroma to the fried chicken. I just love it. Chinese five spice powder can be found at Asian stores or online. This ingredient also makes a great marinate for many other Chinese dishes. Try it and I am sure you will be delighted with this recipe.

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30 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. Wow looks great! I used to watch his cooking shows too, he’s always so cheerful and funny. Love using red fermented bean curd for marinades and stews. So fragrant and tasty.

  2. DailyChef

    I love getting this style of crispy fried chicken at Asian snack shops or boba places, but never have cooked it myself. Thanks for the recipe – now I can!

  3. David

    Although I have never seen Martin Yan these little morsels look absolutely delicious, and I especially love how they are wrapped in newspaper. Reminds me of how the street vendors sell little fried snacks in SE Asia.

  4. Geri

    Love chicken done many ways but Chinese is on the top of the list. Martin Yan is still one of my favorite TV chefs. Even though we do not see him like years ago he put down a good foundation for others to follow with his great kitchen skills and gift for connecting with the viewers. I’ll be shopping soon for the bean curd, can’t wait to test this great recipe. One last thing, years ago in the stone age of the 50’s we had a Chinese chef down the street who cooked “chicken chow mein” in a very large pot and it was very soup like. I believe his style was Cantonese. Now days most Asian restaurants here cook in a different way with the veggies being partly cooked in and out of the wok in seconds. I dream of finding a chef who prepares it the way I remember it as a child. Does anyone out there have the same dream ?

  5. Jenny

    Looks delicious! Fried foods are so tempting and alluringly good, aren’t they? Interesting presentation. Is this how it’s served by the Chinese vendors in Guangzhou or how did the newspaper-cone inspiration come about?
    Keep up the great work!

  6. I would take those crispy chicken bits over popcorn ANYDAY at the movie theater. :) Thanks for sharing yet another fabulous recipe, Bee.
    I never worked with red fermented bean curd before but you surely make me want to get some.

  7. ash

    tks a lot for sharing!! Just tried this last nite for dnr, it was very yummy! Do u hv the prawn paste chicken recipe to share as well? =)

  8. I remember doing just that, too — crowding around the TV with my family to watch Martin Yan go “Chop it up, Chop it up!” on public television.No one can wield a cleaver like he can. He has mad skills! ;)
    This crispy chicken looks heavenly. But then again, it’s hard not to adore any fried foods.

  9. Loves2cook

    I am making this with black bean & garlic eggplant, so I’m experimenting with this recipe, marinating the chicken in black bean & garlic paste with lime juice, sugar, rice wine vinegar & sesame oil & just coating it with corn starch, which will also thicken the eggplant sauce… will post results.

  10. Loves2cook

    The chicken was fabulous! Light & crispy, fried very quickly in the wok & wasn’t greasy at all. I’m sold on wok frying forever! I just dredged the chicken in corn starch (no eggs) because of the wetter marinade.

    My paring it with black bean & garlic eggplant, which was my idea, unrelated to this recipe, was perhaps not the best choice. Individually each was delicious, together the dish was a bit one-note, next time I will pair it with other vegetables.

  11. Ericka

    I still watch Martin Yan on local PBS stations. I loved Yan Can Cook when I was younger and I still love him. He is so enthusiastic and excited about his ingredients and recipes. He is infectious and helped develop my love of Asian cuisine. I have a special place in my heart (or tummy?) for Vietnamese and Thai dishes but love Japanese and Chinese as well. Just getting acquainted with Korean dishes and love all of the other Asian cultures dishes represented here and will definitely be trying many of them. Love this site and think you educate us non-Asian cooks very well in the traditions, techniques, ingredients and beauty of Asian dishes. Thank you so much.

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