It's Taiwanese popcorn chicken, but vegan. Mushrooms, with their woodsy umami flavor and meaty bite, make a compelling substitute for the usual boneless chicken. Potato starch gives them a crunchy coat. Five spice powder imparts that signature flavor, while deep-fried basil leaves adds extra aroma and an attractive burst of green.
What is Popcorn Chicken?
Popcorn chicken is a popular street food in Taiwan: boneless chicken bites deep-fried until crispy, tossed with aromatic five spice powder and fried basil, and served in a paper bag. Like its big sister Taiwanese chicken chops, there's enough flavor and texture for you to enjoy the chicken as is—no sauce or gravy necessary.
What Kinds of Mushrooms Can I Use?
This recipe uses a mix of fresh oyster and shimeji mushrooms. You can stick to one type, or change it up with other kinds: spindly enoki or fat king oyster mushrooms sliced thinly can work. Salting the mushrooms beforehand will help draw out excess moisture and dry them out for a crispier fry.
- 1 cup potato starch
- 1 tbsp Chinese five spice powder
- 3 cups fresh assorted mushrooms, like oyster and white shimeji
- 20–30 basil leaves, stems removed
- neutral oil, for frying
- salt and pepper, to taste
Make dry batter: Add potato starch, Chinese five spice powder, and a good pinch of salt to a mixing bowl. Stir to combine. Add mushrooms and toss until thoroughly coated.
Prepare for frying: Bring oil in a wok or heavy-bottomed pot to 350°F over medium-high heat.
Fry mushrooms: Once oil is hot, fry mushrooms in two batches until golden brown. Transfer mushrooms to a strainer over a bowl to drain all excess oil, then season with salt while still hot.
Fry basil: Bring oil back to temp and fry basil until translucent, 45 seconds. Transfer fried leaves to a strainer to drain excess oil. Season with salt.
Serve: Combine fried mushrooms and basil leaves to a serving bowl. If you want more flavor, add five spice powder to your liking. Toss and serve immediately.