Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken aka 鹽酥雞, Yansu Ji or Salted Crispy Chicken

by Irvin on February 2, 2015 · 18 comments

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This Taiwanese popcorn chicken recipe is a flavorful fried chicken marinated in garlic, ginger, 5-spice and white pepper before being deep fried.

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken. Photo and recipe by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had Taiwanese popcorn chicken before, but it sounds fantastic!” said AJ when I told him I was going to make Yansu Ji (literally translated to salted crispy chicken), otherwise known as Taiwanese popcorn chicken which is basically Taiwanese fried chicken. I haven’t been back to Taiwan for about 15 years and it’s been probably just as long since I’ve eaten Yansu Ji. But then I got an advanced review copy of The Food of Taiwan by Cathy Erway and it reminded me how much I missed the food from that tropical island where my parents were born and raised. (Jump directly to the recipe.)

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken Recipe. Photo by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love.

Though I was born here in the US, I have fond memories of Taiwan. I spent a very pivotal summer in college over 20 years ago, where I met a number of people who have become some of my best friends. And like all memories, whenever I have Taiwanese food, I’m completely transported back to my youth, much like the scene in Ratatouille when Anton Ego takes a bite of of his favorite childhood dish. Sadly there aren’t a lot of cookbooks out there that feature the cuisine from Taiwan. But thankfully Cathy Erway filled that niche with her beautiful and accessible cookbook.

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken, aka Yansu Ji or Salted Crispy Chicken. Photo and Recipe by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love.

If you’ve never had Taiwanese popcorn chicken, it’s a super flavorful fried chicken. Unlike it’s American version of chicken nuggets or even the Japanese Karaage it’s usually not served with any sort of dipping sauce. The spiced marinade recipe that the chicken sits in with garlic, ginger, soy sauce, five-spice and white pepper provide plenty of flavor. It’s a typical street food (and trust me when I tell you the Taiwanese love their street food) and is often served with deep fried Thai basil leaves as a garnish. Once bite of it, and AJ admitted it was just as good as he expected it to be. And when I tasted it, I immediately thought to myself, this is what Taiwan taste like.

Special thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for sending me a review copy of The Food of Taiwan by Cathy Erway. Even though they sent me a complementary copy of the book, I was not monetarily compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.

If you like this Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken recipe, check out some of these other Taiwanese cuisine recipes:

My Rosemary and Vanilla infused Taiwanese Pineapple Cakes
Use Real Butter’s Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup
Steamy Kitchen’s Taiwanese Noodles with Meat Sauce Recipe
Tiny Urban Kitchen’s Taiwanese “Meat Ball” (Bawan)
Rasa Malaysia’s Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken, otherwise known as Yansu Ji or Salted Crispy Chicken. Photo and recipe by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love.
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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Joleen February 2, 2015 at 9:47 am

I have a strange addiction to popcorn chicken and always find myself craving it with a cup of milk tea with boba. I’m going to save this recipe for my cheat day and indulge in some delicious chicken! Great recipe 🙂


Allie | Baking a Moment February 2, 2015 at 7:45 pm

I have never heard of this dish before but it sounds absolutely incredible. I’m in love with the flavors- and it looks so light and crispy. That fried basil garnish is like the icing on the cake!


Marisa Franca @ All Our Way February 3, 2015 at 4:04 am

Fantastic!! A different way to make chicken. We eat lots of it as well as fish so we like trying different cuisines. I’m not familiar with Thai but this will be a good introduction. Grazie for sharing. BTW – this is good news Winn-Dixie has their chicken thighs on sale for $.88 🙂


Moe February 25, 2015 at 10:00 pm

Marissa, Thailand and Taiwan are two different places :’) Thai refers to food of Thailand and Taiwanese refers to food of Taiwan. Taiwan is a small island South of Japan, East of China and North of the Philippines.

Good luck making these!


mila furman February 3, 2015 at 11:38 am

You are KILLING ME with this!!! It looks absolutely fantastic!!!! Pinned!


Maggie Zhu February 4, 2015 at 4:36 am

I can believe I never tried out an authentic Taiwanese popcorn chicken before. These look sooooo good and I can finish two big bowls now. Can’t wait to try out tomorrow, one batch to eat and another batch to freeze. Pinned and saved 🙂


Miriam Pascal February 4, 2015 at 5:55 am

I’ve had popcorn chicken before, but never made it. This looks fabulous!


Lisa | Mummy Made.It February 8, 2015 at 3:09 am

We made this for lunch today (using the Paleo subs) and it was amazing!!! The Sweet Potato Flour certainly makes it crunchier and the 5 spice is great.
It has been requested that it be added to the weekly roster!


megan April 23, 2015 at 8:49 am

Hey! It looks like our recipes are really similar. One difference I noticed is that mine is eggless, where yours calls for an egg. Also, I like to dust my finished yan su ji with cayenne pepper, in addition to a combination of 5 spice powder+white pepper+salt.

Yan su ji is one of my favorite things to eat when I visit Taiwan!


Bethany Jones May 27, 2015 at 6:47 am

Great recipe! I did it yesterday and it was a total hit back home. I’ll do it again, only this time I’ll use pork instead. I’m sure it’ll be as great.


lorrie July 6, 2015 at 10:02 am

thanks Irvin for sharing your recipe for “popcorn chicken” as it’s called at a nearby snack shop. we love these crispy chicken bites – so tasty. now I can try making it at home.


Anny C July 21, 2015 at 11:29 pm

Thanks for this recipe! I just finished reading Cathy Erway’s fantastic book and it made me a little homesick with the pictures of the Taiwanese night market snacks 🙂 I definitely going to try this recipe!


Ben N November 10, 2015 at 11:21 am

It taste EXACTLY like the shops I’ve had in Taiwan. This is absolutely amazing. I’m usually bad at cooking but your instructions made it simple and easy.

Thank you! I’ll be trying it with pork chops and adding minced meat to my rice!!


Kim Chu November 25, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Love your photographs, it looks so appetizing, I’ve read your blog earlier , search for this recipes , as I type I have the chicken marinating. I’m going to fry it soon.. but what is so attractive about your recipes, is your photograph it is very simple, true to life, yet very sophisticated because of its simplicity. Great Work!.


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