This is the best Chinese black pepper chicken stir fry recipe with that wonderful lingering tingling sensation and complex flavours. Simple to make and perfect for chicken, beef or seafood, including crab. Soooo good!
What is black pepper chicken?
Black pepper chicken stir fry is a dish popular in many chinese restaurants and takeaways. The black pepper chicken sauce originated somewhere in South East Asia – perhaps in Singapore, or maybe Malaysia. I fell in love with it at Din Tai Fung where it is served with cubes of stir-fried beef.
The sauce is a melting pot of ingredients you’d find in many cuisines outside of the region. It includes French shallots, uses butter as a fat – synonymous with British cooking and curry leaves of Indian influence. These are combined with the classic Chinese sauces such as oyster and soy sauce.
Dried shrimp and fermented yellow beans create a complex, savoury and tangy but oh so moreish flavour. I provide some tips below on how to find easy substitutes for these in most western supermarkets.
This Chinese pepper chicken recipe is SOOOO GOOD! It’s versatile and you can put it together in a few minutes using a handful of sauces, spices and herbs which you will forever want to keep in your kitchen.
My simple tips to making the BEST black pepper chicken stir fry
You will also want to velvet your chicken breast to make it amazingly juicy and tender. This is such a quick and easy step during preparation, but totally worth it. The meat ends up with that beautiful silky smooth, juicy texture. And it works for beef strips and pork strip as well!
Secondly, fresh curry leaves are really a must in this recipe. You can buy them from most good grocers and supermarkets nowadays. Dried leaves tend to lose their flavour and become chewy when cooked. Freeze any leftover leaves and use later, this way they won’t go to waste.
Although the classic Chinese pepper chicken recipe calls for preserved yellow beans, I simply use Japanese organic shiro (white) miso paste instead. It has a very similar texture and I find it more versatile in a Western kitchen. I also love having it simply as a miso soup for sipping.
Try to use the best quality ingredients where you can. See notes below on fresh and some organic, and opt for a few shortcuts as well.
Love your black pepper chicken recipe HOT?
Simply increase the heat level of the dish by adding more red long chillies to the dish!
I use 3 for the ease of remembering the recipe (it’s 1 tablespoon of sauces and spices, 3 each of the other ingredients). The sauce has a wonderful lingering heat with a touch of that classic tingling sensation thanks to the black peppercorns. You can use ground black peppercorns but they won’t be as flavourful as freshly ground black peppercorns.
Dried shrimp in chilli oil is a simple shortcut that saves plenty of time and they can stay in the fridge for some time so you can add them to other dishes as well.
Choosing organic ingredients
For me, making the best black pepper sauce also means using certified organic chicken, organic butter, organic miso paste and organic soy sauce. In Australia, look for the certified organic bud logo.
These 4 ingredients are some of the MOST processed foods out there. Opting for their certified organic versions is really a no brainer.
Whilst you might not necessarily notice the difference in flavour, you will have the peace of mind knowing that they are definitely free from chemicals used in growing and processing (think pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilisers, hormones, bleaches, etc).
It’s always hard not to eat the chicken straight out of the pan or wok once it’s done.
You can serve it on its own or with steamed rice or udon noodles stirred through the sauce. It’s sensational! Use the sauce for anything from chicken, beef, lamb through to seafood including crab.
The Best Black Pepper Sauce Chicken Stir Fry
For the Chicken
- 2 chicken breasts (500g total)
- 1.5 teaspoons bicarb soda
For the Black Pepper Sauce
- 3 small French (or golden) shallots
- 3 medium garlic cloves
- 3-5 red long chillies
- 3 sprigs fresh curry leaves (1 handful leaves)
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon shiro miso paste (or mashed preserved yellow beans)
- 1 tablespoon dried baby shrimp preserved in oil
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon ketjap manis
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 50 g unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon tapioca flour
- 1 tablespoon water
To prepare the chicken
- Slice chicken breasts into thin strips. Place in a ceramic bowl and sprinkle evenly with bicarb soda. Mix to coat evenly. Set aside for 20 minutes to marinate.
- Transfer chicken to a sieve or colander and rinse well under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Heat oil in a large wok or frying pan. Stir fry chicken on high heat for 2 minutes, in batches if needed, until just about cooked through. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside.
To make the sauce
- Peel and finely dice the shallots, garlic. Finely chop the red chillis, leave seeds in. Pick leaves off the curry sprigs.
- In a medium bowl or jug mix together the peppercorns, miso paste, dried shrimp in oil, oyster sauce, ketjap manis and soy sauce to form a paste.
- Return wok or large frying pan to medium-high heat and add butter. When melted, add in the chopped shallots, garlic, chilli and curry leaves. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant and the shallots turn translucent.
- Add the soy sauce paste, stir, then add in the cooked chicken. Mix well to combine. Add stock and cook for 3 minutes for the chicken to cook through.
- Mix tapioca flour with water and drizzle over the sauce, stirring quickly for the sauce to thicken. Remove from heat and serve.