Dragon Chicken, the dish as BOLD, fiery and colorful as the mighty dragon. This Indo-Chinese dish beautifully blends the fiery essence of the East with subtle hints of the exotic.
This dish is a vibrant mosaic of tastes and textures, featuring crispy chicken strips marinated in spiced batter, then shallow-fried to golden perfection. The chicken is then tossed in a sizzling stir-fry alongside crunchy bell peppers, red onions and nutty cashews.
The dish is completed with a sauce that’s as fiery and bold as a dragon’s breath, yet balanced with a touch of sweetness.
Each bite of Dragon Chicken is a burst of flavors, from the warmth of ginger and garlic to the kick of chili, mellowed by the sweetness of tomato ketchup.
And let’s not forget the delightful crunch of cashew nuts that adds a final, irresistible touch. Perfect as a zesty appetizer or a sumptuous main course over fluffy white rice, Dragon Chicken is your next new dish to try.
Why this Recipe Works
- Flavorful Marinade: The combination of soy sauce, ginger and garlic paste, salt, pepper, chili powder or paprika, and egg creates a rich and flavorful marinade. This not only tenderizes the chicken, but also infuses it with a depth of flavors.
- Crispy Texture: The flour and corn starch coating results in a crispy exterior when shallow fried. This texture contrast is a major draw, offering a satisfying crunch with each bite.
- Spicy and Sweet Sauce: The stir-fry sauce, with its blend of tomato ketchup, soy sauce, chili paste, and a hint of sugar, strikes a perfect balance between spicy and sweet.
- Colorful Vegetables: The inclusion of different colored bell peppers and red onion not only adds to the nutritional value but also makes the dish visually appealing.
- Aromatic Spices and Nuts: Ginger, garlic, and dry red chilies add a burst of aroma and flavor, while cashews provide a unique nutty taste and an additional layer of texture.
- Versatility: Dragon Chicken can be served as an appetizer or as a main dish over a bed of rice, making it a versatile choice for various settings.
- Cultural Fusion: This dish is a delightful fusion of Chinese flavors with an Indian twist.
What is Dragon Chicken?
Dragon Chicken is a delicious Indo-Chinese dish known for its spicy, sweet, and tangy flavors. This cuisine is characterized by a fusion of Indian and Chinese culinary styles, which emerged from the Chinese community living in Kolkata, India.
I grew up on many Indo-Chinese dishes such as chili chicken, chicken Manchurian and manchow soup. Many of these will find their way onto GypsyPlate one of these days.
The origins of Dragon Chicken, like many Indo-Chinese dishes, are somewhat nebulous but fascinating. Indo-Chinese cuisine began to take shape in the early 20th century when a small Chinese community, mainly from the Canton region, settled in Kolkata. They started adapting traditional Chinese recipes to suit Indian tastes, which often meant making dishes spicier and more flavorful to appeal to the local palate.
Dragon Chicken is a relatively modern addition to this cuisine and doesn’t have a specific origin story. However, it captures the essence of Indo-Chinese cooking: a blend of Chinese cooking techniques and ingredients with Indian flavors and spices. This fusion creates a unique and delectable dish that has gained popularity not just in India, but globally.
The name “Dragon Chicken” is believed to stem from its fiery spice levels and vibrant appearance, akin to the mythical dragon’s association with fire and strength in Chinese culture. Additionally, the name’s exotic and intriguing nature makes it appealing on menus, reflecting both the dish’s spicy heat and its cultural fusion roots.
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs – Preferred for their juiciness and flavor, chicken thighs remain tender and moist when cooked. They also absorb marinades well.
- Flour & Corn Starch – This combination is crucial for achieving the crispy coating on the chicken. Corn starch, in particular, gives a nice crunch and helps the chicken brown beautifully when fried.
- Soy Sauce – It adds a savory umami flavor to both the marinade and the sauce.
- Ginger & Garlic Paste – These are key ingredients in many Asian cuisines, especially Indian. They impart a strong, aromatic flavor that is foundational to the dish.
- Spices (Salt, Black Pepper, Kashmiri Red Chili Powder or Paprika) – These spices add depth. Kashmiri red chili powder offers a vibrant color with a milder heat compared to other chili powders. It is readily available in Indian grocery stores, but paprika can be a good substitute.
- Egg – The beaten egg in the marinade helps bind the flour to the chicken, contributing to the crispy coating after frying.
- Stir-fry Sauce Ingredients (Tomato Ketchup, Chili Paste, Sugar, Water) – This combination creates a sweet, tangy, and spicy sauce that perfectly complements the crispy chicken. The ketchup and sugar add sweetness, balancing the heat from the chili paste.
- Bell Peppers & Onion – These veggies add crunch, color, and sweetness, contrasting nicely with the spicy and savory elements of the dish.
- Dry Red Chilies & Cashew Nuts – Dry red chilies increase the heat and add an authentic touch to the dish, while cashew nuts offer a crunchy, nutty element.
- Oil -: A sufficient amount of oil is necessary for shallow frying the chicken to achieve a crispy texture. It’s also used for stir-frying the vegetables and bringing the dish together.
Dragon Chicken Recipe
1. Marinate the Chicken: Combine the chicken strips with flour, corn starch, soy sauce, ginger paste, garlic paste, salt, black pepper, Kashmiri red chili powder or paprika, and beaten egg in a mixing bowl. Mix well until all the chicken pieces are evenly coated. Set aside to marinate while prepping other ingredients.
2. Prepare Stir-fry Sauce: Mix tomato ketchup, soy sauce, red chili paste (like sriracha or sambal oelek), sugar, and water in a small bowl. Set aside the sauce for later use.
3. Fry the Chicken: Heat oil in a frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. Shallow fry the marinated chicken in batches until golden brown and cooked through, about 5-6 minutes per batch. Drain the fried chicken on a paper towel-lined dish.
4. Stir-fry Vegetables: Discard excess oil, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pan. Stir fry the diced red onion, bell peppers, and dry red chili pieces for a couple of minutes on high heat. Add finely chopped garlic, ginger, and cashew nuts, continuing to stir-fry for another couple of minutes.
5. Combine with Sauce and Chicken: Pour in the prepared stir-fry sauce. Add the fried chicken back into the pan. Toss well to ensure every piece of chicken is coated with the sauce.
As an Appetizer: Serve Dragon Chicken on its own as a standalone appetizer. You can arrange the chicken pieces on a serving platter, garnished with sesame seeds and thinly sliced green onions for an extra pop of color and flavor.
Over Rice: For a more filling meal, serve Dragon Chicken over a bed of steamed white rice. The rice pairs perfectly with the spicy and flavorful sauce of the chicken, making it a satisfying main course.
With Noodles: Another great option is to serve it alongside or on top of a bed of noodles, such as lo mein or rice noodles. This adds an extra texture and makes for a heartier meal. If you want an extra fiery meal, pair the Dragon chicken with my Spicy Noodles.
Lettuce Wraps: For a lighter, low-carb option, Dragon Chicken can be served in lettuce wraps. This is both a healthy and fun way to enjoy the dish.
With a Side of Vegetables: Serve with a side of stir-fried or steamed veggies like broccoli, snap peas, or bok choy for a well-rounded meal.
Alpana’s Tips and Tricks
- Marinating Time: Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes, or even better, up to a few hours in the refrigerator. This helps the flavors to infuse into the chicken, making it more tender and flavorful.
- Frying the Chicken: Make sure oil is ready for shallow frying. Use a thermometer to check the oil temperature or drop a small piece of batter in the oil. If it sizzles and comes to the surface, the oil is ready.
- Don’t Overcrowd the Pan: Fry the chicken in batches to avoid overcrowding, which can lower the oil temperature and lead to soggy chicken.
- Taste and Adjust: Taste the sauce before adding it to the chicken and adjust the sweetness, saltiness, or spiciness as needed.
- Size of Cut: Cut the vegetables in uniform sizes for even cooking.
- Quick Stir-Fry: Stir-fry the vegetables quickly on high heat to keep them crisp and vibrant.
- Sauce Consistency: If the sauce is too thick, add a little water to thin it out. If it’s too thin, let it simmer for a bit longer to reduce.
- Serving Temperature: Serve the dish immediately after preparation to enjoy the contrast of crispy chicken with the sauce. If left for too long, the chicken may lose its crispiness.
Leftovers and Storing
Allow the leftovers to cool to room temperature before storing them. Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Properly stored, Dragon Chicken can last for 2-3 days in the fridge.
If you want to store the leftovers for a longer period, you can freeze them. Place the cooled Dragon Chicken in a freezer-safe container or a heavy-duty freezer bag. Frozen, it can last for up to 2 months. However, note that freezing may affect the texture, especially the crispiness of the chicken.
When ready to eat, you can reheat the leftovers in the microwave, oven, or on the stovetop. If using a microwave, cover the dish to retain moisture. For the oven or stovetop, you might want to add a little water or chicken broth to keep the chicken moist. Reheat only until the chicken is hot throughout.
If the chicken has lost its crispiness, consider using the leftovers in a different dish, like a stir-fry, fried rice, or as a filling for sandwiches or wraps.
I am sure, Dragon Chicken is a new flavor for most of you. Try this fiery Indo-Chinese appetizer if you’re looking for bold flavors in your Asian cravings.
You will see how any food can have a spicier, zingier and bolder twist when it goes to India.
For more easy weeknight dinners, check out our hand picked collection of Dinner Ideas for Tonight. Until next time…
Dragon Chicken, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
- 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into strips
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 3 Tbsp corn starch
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp ginger paste
- 1 Tbsp garlic paste
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder or paprika
- 1 egg, beaten
- ¼ cup tomato ketchup
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp red chili paste (like sriracha or sambal oelek)
- 1 tsp sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup oil (for shallow frying and for stir fry)
- ½ red bell pepper, diced
- ½ green bell pepper, diced
- ½ orange bell pepper, diced
- ½ red onion, diced
- 3-4 dry red chilies, cut into large pieces (see note)
- 1 Tbsp garlic, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp ginger, finely chopped
- ¼ cup cashew nuts
- Add chicken along with all the marinade ingredients into a mixing bowl. Mix well till all the chicken pieces are coated well. (You can marinade while you prep the rest of the ingredients)
- In a small bowl, mix all stir fry sauce ingredients and set aside.
- Heat oil in frying pan or wok on medium high heat. Shallow fry the chicken in batches till golden brown and cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Plate it out on a paper towel lined dish.
- Remove all but about 2 Tbsp oil from the pan. Once the oil is hot, stir fry diced red onion along with bell peppers and red chili pieces for a couple of minutes on high heat.
- Add in chopped ginger and garlic along with cashew nuts and stir fry for another couple of minutes.
- Add in sauce and fried chicken and toss till every chicken piece is well coated with the sauce.
- Serve immediately as appetizer, or over a bed of white rice.
- Use more or less according to how much spice you want.
Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 428Total Fat 24gSaturated Fat 4gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 19gCholesterol 169mgSodium 1569mgCarbohydrates 25gFiber 2gSugar 10gProtein 32g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.
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