This flavorful fried chicken is made with boneless thigh meat for extra juiciness. You can certainly use boneless breast meat if you want but expect it to be a little less juicy. This recipe does require a few specialty ingredients, most of them found at an Asian grocery store or a well-stocked grocery store. If you can't find them, I've made notes above this recipe on substitutions.
Cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks and place in large bowl. Make the marinade by mincing or forcing the garlic through a press into a small bowl. Add the ginger, minced green onions, soy sauce, mirin, 5-spice, white pepper, sweet potato starch (or cornstarch) and cayenne pepper, stir together and then pour into the bowl with the chicken. Mix to coat all the chicken and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Once the chicken is done marinating, heat the frying oil in a sauté pan or wok until it reaches 350˚F. place the eggs in medium sized bowl with the 1/2 cup of water. Beat together with a fork. Place the sweet potato starch (or cornstarch) in another medium-sized bowl. Using chopsticks or tongs, dip the chicken first in the watery egg mixture then in the starch.
Fry the chicken pieces without crowding them too much for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Try not to overcrowd the pan, I usually fry about 6-8 pieces at a time.
Once fried, place the chicken on a wire rack or a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Repeat the process with the remaining chicken. Once all the chicken is fried, sprinkle with generous amounts of salt and a little bit of five-spice and white pepper to taste. Fry the Thai basil leaves for 30 seconds or until they darken and then serve with the chicken.
This recipe is adapted from the book The Food of Taiwan by Cathy Erway.[Note: this recipe was original published on Feb 15, 2015, but has been updated with recipe and substitution notes, as well as new images on March 19, 2021]