Enjoy a takeaway favourite at home with this tasty homemade spicebag recipe created by the GastroGays
One of the nation’s favourite takeaway dishes, the spicebag holds a special place in our hearts. If you find yourself asking, ‘what on earth is a spicebag?’, we’re talking about the tasty comfort food dish – typically available in your local Chinese food takeaway restaurant – of crispy chicken strips, chips, fried onion, garlic and chilli, all tossed in a hot, sweet and salty spice blend.
This homemade spicebag recipe is by Irish foodie duo Russell James Alford and Patrick Hanlon, aka the GastroGays (@gastrogays), created for Siúcra. The recipe uses a deep fat fryer, but if you don’t have a deep fat fryer, you can shallow-fry the chicken pieces in a pan with about 100ml of vegetable oil on a medium-high heat. You will need to manually turn them half way through.
- 2 free-range chicken breasts (or chicken thighs), sliced in long thin strips
- 100ml buttermilk (or regular milk with 1 tsp fresh lemon juice)
- 3 tbsp plain flour
- 4 large chipping potatoes, peeled (we like Kerrs Pinks, Maris Pipers or Roosters)
- 1 red chilli, sliced (de-seeding optional for lower heat)
- 1 white onion, sliced in 2cm half moons
- 4 garlic cloves, fine chopped
- Vegetable oil for frying
Spice Bag Blend
- 1 tbsp Five Spice (which includes star anise, cassia, fennel, clove and Szechuan chilli already)
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1/8 tsp each cardamom, cinnamon and ginger
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp Siúcra granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
1. First, prepare your chicken by steeping it in buttermilk for an hour to tenderise. In another bowl, add 2 tsp of the spice bag blend to the flour to season it.
2. For truly crispy chips, it’s a three-step process, but worth it. Parboil the chips in boiling, salted water for two minutes to begin the cooking process as your oil gets to 170ºC. Drain the chips well and then fry for 4-5 minutes at this lower temperature to cook through, then remove. You don’t want a lot of colour, just a firm exterior (and they will be fluffy inside!) Then, just before serving, crank the heat up to 190ºC to fry for a further 90 seconds or so to get that gorgeous golden colour.
3. For the chicken, you’re also going to fry at 170-180ºC for around five minutes. Take your chicken strips from the buttermilk (shaking off excess) and dunk into your seasoned flour to coat, then gently lower into the hot oil. You may need to do this in two batches. When golden brown and crisp, drain and remove to a wire rack over a baking sheet, lined with kitchen paper.
4. For the flash-fried vegetables, heat a wok or frying pan to a high heat and add 1/2 tbsp of neutral oil. When the oil is hot, introduce the onions and keep moving, you want them to soften but not colour if you can help it. After a minute or so introduce the garlic and then just before you finish frying add in the sliced chilli. Remove from the heat.
5. In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle 1 tbsp (or two if you like) of the spice bag blend over the chicken, chips and onion, garlic and chilli mix and toss everything together to combine. Optional to serve it with curry sauce alongside or not.
Note: Always take extra care with an exposed body of oil set over a high heat.