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Koushui Ji (Saliva Chicken 口水鸡)

Koushui Ji (Saliva Chicken  口水鸡)

What is it?
Even though ‘saliva chicken’, the literal translation of the dish, doesn’t sound particularly appetising, Koushui ji is one of the most famous dishes in Sichuan cuisine. The chicken is first steamed before being dunked in iced water to firm up the skin. The chicken is then bathed in a numbingly spicy chilli sauce with toasted peanuts and sesame seeds and a garnish of green onion. The dish is usually eaten cold as an appetiser.

Why is it famous?
While its exact origin is unknown, it is believed that the name came about when famous Sichuan writer and poet Guo Moruo (1892-1978) described a chicken dish so visually stunning that just looking at it “makes the mouth water”. Another reason for the name is because of the generous use of Sichuan peppercorn in the chilli oil, which numbs the lips and makes the mouth drool.

The sauce is made up of mostly chilli oil, but also includes soy sauce, vinegar, cooking wine, garlic and ginger.

To say people in Sichuan are obsessed with their food is an understatement. They dissect and analyse their meals with intense seriousness and engagement. While there have been debates about finding the balance between preserving tradition and embracing new ways of cooking and innovation, Koshui ji is a staple that is not going away.

Where to eat?
In Beijing, Yuxin Sichuan Dish is a popular Sichuan restaurant chain. Its Ko Shui Ji is ranked the city’s best on restaurant app Dianping. One of the Beijing locations: 111 Xi Dan North Street, 7/F Xidan International Mansion, Beijing; Tel: 86-10-6618-3918.

San Xi Lou in Hong Kong is a good spot for authentic Sichuan food. Address: 7/F, Coda Plaza, 51 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong; Tel: 852-2838-8811.

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