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28 Apr 2022

Santosh Shah’s swadilo piro tareko valeko

Santosh Shah’s swadilo piro tareko valeko
One of our most popular street foods in Nepal is a direct influence from our Indo-Chinese borders: crispy chilli chicken.

It’s found everywhere, usually served with soup and chow mein. The success of this dish is all in the technique. First the chicken cubes are coated and deep-fried until golden and beautifully crispy. Then the sauce, prepared in an extremely hot wok, wraps the crispy chicken in a caramelised, charred, umami seal. It’s traditionally served with amilo piro tato kukhura ko jhol (hot and sour soup).

Serves 4
Preparation 20m, cooking 30m

For the chicken

  • 2 tbsp cornflour 
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • ¼ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder, or medium hot chilli powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 400g skinless, free-range chicken breasts, cut into 2.5-cm cubes
  • 500ml vegetable oil, for deep frying

For the sauce

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil 
  • A knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped 
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 fresh green chillies, finely chopped 
  • 100g chopped onion
  • 150g mixed peppers, diced
  • ½ chicken stock cube
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp cornflour mixed with 2 tbsp water
  • 1 large pinch of timur peppercorns, or Sichuan peppercorns
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp luiche masala (recipe below)
  • 4 tbsp spring onions, finely sliced 
  • 2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

For the luiche masala

  • 1 tbsp dried garlic flakes
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp timmur peppercorns, or Sichuan peppercorns
  • 5 dried red chillies, crushed
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp green cardamoms
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 7 cm cinnamon stick, broken into shards
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated nutmeg (about ¾ of a whole nutmeg)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric

To serve (optional) 

  • amilo piro tato kukhura ko jhol (hot and sour soup)


  1. Marinate the chicken. Place the cornflour, plain flour, chilli powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Add 4 tbsp of water and mix until well blended. Add the chicken cubes and toss until well coated.
  2. Heat the oil in a large wok until it reaches 180°C. Deep-fry the coated chicken cubes, in batches, for approximately 7-8 mins until golden and crispy. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside. Discard the oil.
  3. To make the sauce, heat the oil in the wok over a high heat. Stir-fry the ginger, garlic and chillies for 1 min, until golden. Add the onion and peppers and cook over a high heat for about 5 mins until charred, stirring frequently. Add about 200ml water and the ½ chicken stock cube and cook for about 3 mins, until reduced by three-quarters. Add the fried chicken pieces, soy sauce and vinegar, and stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the cornflour mix and cook for 1 min, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the chicken and the mixture is well caramelised. Finish by adding the timur, cumin and luiche masala. Adjust the seasoning and add salt if needed, then add the coriander.
  4. Serve the chicken hot and crispy, topped with the sliced spring onions and alongside a bowl of hot and sour soup, if you like. 

Makes 7 tablespoons
Takes 30 minutes

  1. Heat a non-stick frying pan. Add all the whole spices and dry roast over medium heat until they colour, puff up and start releasing their aroma. Transfer to a plate and leave to cool.
  2. Using a spice or coffee grinder, grind the toasted and cooled whole spices in batches until finely powdered. Mix in the ground spices until well blended.
  3. Transfer to a screw-top jar or other airtight container. For best results, use this spice mix within 2 weeks.

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