That Spicy Chick

Yu Xiang Chicken (Sichuan Shredded Chicken with Hot Garlic Sauce – Yu Xiang Rou Si)

This Yu Xiang Chicken is a delicious Sichuan shredded chicken stir-fry in a hot and spicy garlic sauce. Tender shredded chicken, cloud ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, plenty of garlic and chilies get tossed in a mouthwatering and addictive savory, sweet and tangy sauce!

Yu Xiang Chicken (Yu Xiang Rou Si – 鱼香肉丝) is a classic Sichuan stir-fry that’s full of addictive garlicky, spicy, sour, and sweet flavors. It’s made with silky smooth shredded meat (usually pork but sometimes chicken too), Sichuan pickled red chilies, chewy wood ear mushrooms and crunchy bamboo shoots.

What does Yu Xiang mean?

Literally translated, “Yu Xiang” means fish-fragrant. However, there are no fish ingredients, no fishy taste, nor any fish smell in this stir-fry whatsoever! The name simply comes from the style and ingredients used to cook a traditional spicy, sweet, and sour garlic sauce Sichuan fish dish. After that dish originated, anything cooked with the same sauce and aromatics was labeled with the “Yu Xiang” prefix.

I often used to get Yu Xiang Pork or Yu Xiang Qie Zi (Fish-fragrant Eggplant) for takeout from my favorite Sichuan restaurant here. I’ve finally decided to recreate a chicken version so that I can enjoy it anytime I like at home. (And without too much excess oil which is sometimes the issue with Chinese restaurants.)

I will admit that there is quite a bit of prep work in terms of having to finely slice the chicken and veggies and chop the aromatics. The actual stir-fry is a breeze though, and ready in under 10 minutes. In my opinion, the spicy, sour, and sweet flavors in this dish are DYNAMITE and 100% worth the effort!

I’m telling you friends, once you make this epic Yu Xiang Chicken dish and taste all of its glorious flavors, you will be making it over and over again!

Closeup of plate with chopsticks tucked inside of a spicy shredded chicken stir-fry.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Amazing flavors. The hot and sour, sweet and spicy, and garlicky flavors in this dish are absolutely delicious and 100% addictive!
  • Lao Gan Ma Pickled Chilies sauce replaces the traditional Sichuan pickled chilies (which can be hard to find outside China) used for this stir-fry and delivers the signature spicy and sour notes.
  • Simple method. Although there is quite a bit of prep work, the final dish is a quick and easy stir-fry that is ready in under 10 minutes.
  • Customizable protein. You can use pork or beef instead of chicken if you prefer.
  • Plenty of delicious sauce! There’s plenty of the incredibly tasty sauce in this version and it tastes SO GOOD with a bowl of steamed rice!
Closeup front view of plate with Yu Xiang Chicken.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutes

Labeled fresh and dry ingredients for Sichuan Yu Xiang Chicken on a wooden board.
Fresh and Pantry Ingredients for Yu Xiang Chicken
  • Chicken: I used boneless and skinless chicken breasts and sliced them into thin slivers. The chicken is marinated with low sodium light soy sauce, Shao Xing rice wine, kosher salt, potato starch and sesame oil. You can use chicken thighs too if you prefer, but I find it easier to slice breasts into the thin slivers. You could also use pork tenderloin (pork fillet) or beef flank or skirt steak if you prefer.
  • Pickled Red Chilies: Traditionally, this dish is made with pickled fresh er jing tiao chilies (pao la jiao – 泡辣椒) in the Sichuan region. Since that’s not easily available outside of China, I used Lao Gan Ma Pickled Red Chilies sauce. It’s a simple blend of chopped hot red chilies, water, salt, MSG, and potassium sorbate (a food preservative) and has a hot and tangy flavor profile. It’s commonly used as a topping condiment, but works incredibly well in stir-fries too. It tastes DELICIOUS! Look for it an Asian supermarket or purchase it online. You can substitute with chopped Mexican or Thai pickled red chilies or sambal oelek in a pinch to yield a similar flavor. Another good substitute would be Sichuan Pixian Dou Ban Jiang (fermented chili bean paste) which is available at Asian supermarkets and online. They both have a similar spicy flavor. The difference is that dou ban jiang is made with fermented fava beans in addition to pickled peppers and has a deeper and stronger flavor.
  • Fresh Bird’s Eye Red Chilies (optional): In addition to the pickled red chilies, I like to add a few fresh Thai Bird’s Eye chilies for more heat. Feel free to adjust to taste and use any other hot red chilies you like. Omit for a milder dish.
  • Dried Cloud Ear or Wood Ear Mushrooms: Traditionally, this dish is made with a Chinese black fungus – wood ear mushrooms. I used dried cloud ear mushrooms as they’re similar in appearance, taste, and texture. The dried mushrooms need to be soaked in a bowl of water for a few minutes. Once rehydrated, they will expand and become tender and rubbery. You can also use fresh wood or cloud ear mushrooms instead if they are easily available to you. They’ll only need rinsing before slicing and you can skip the soaking step.
Dried and rehydrated cloud ear mushrooms in a hand above a bowl with water.
Dried and Rehydrated Cloud Ear Mushrooms
  • Bamboo Shoots: This is the tender part of the bamboo plant and is a vegetable that’s commonly used in Sichuan and Asian cuisine. It adds a crunchy texture to the dish and is available in fresh, dried, frozen, and canned form. Canned or fresh is preferred for this Yu Xiang Chicken recipe. I used a small bag of pre-sliced canned bamboo shoots that I purchased from a Thai shop in a wet market. Look for it in an Asian supermarket, at a Thai grocery shop, or online. You’ll need to drain the liquid from the can and rinse thoroughly. Like the mushrooms, they’ll need to be sliced into thin strips if not already. Substitute with peeled and julienned celtuce or celery in a pinch.
  • Dried Red Chilies: I used hot Chinese Xiao Mi La dried red chilies. Any type of small medium to hot Chinese or Thai dried red chilies can be used though. If using Thai Bird’s Eye dried red chilies, use less as they are hotter than most Chinese dried red chilies.
  • Peanut Oil: Or you can use any other neutral flavor cooking oil with a high smoke point.
Labeled sauce ingredients and stir-fry sauce in a measuring cup for Yu Xiang Chicken.
Stir-fry Sauce Ingredients
  • Shao Xing Rice Wine: A fragrant Chinese cooking wine with a floral aroma. We’ll be using it in the chicken marinade and for the sauce. Find it at your local Asian or Chinese supermarket, or in a mainstream supermarket that is well-stocked with international ingredients. Substitute with dry sherry or use apple juice for a nonalcoholic substitute.
  • Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce: Low sodium so that we can control the salt level better.
  • White Sugar: To balance out all the spicy flavors. Feel free to add more or less to taste.
  • Chinkiang Vinegar: This is a Chinese black vinegar and can be found in Asian or Chinese supermarkets. In a pinch, substitute with half balsamic and half white vinegar to yield a similar flavor.
  • Dark Soy Sauce: This is mainly used for color and is less salty than regular light soy sauce. If you don’t have it on hand, substitute with low sodium light soy sauce.
  • Pure Chili Oil (optional): I add a little chili oil (without flakes/seeds) to the stir-fry sauce to make the dish more spicy. Feel free to leave it out if you prefer a milder dish.
  • Kosher Salt: Use half the amount if using iodized table salt.
  • Potato Starch: Just like corn starch, potato starch is commonly used in marinades, as a thickening agent in sauces, and for frying in Chinese cooking. Substitute with corn starch if unavailable.

Full ingredient list and amounts are in the recipe card below.

Plate with shredded spicy garlic sauce chicken stir-fry.

How to Make Yu Xiang Chicken

1. Cook the chicken. Heat oil over high heat in a large wok. Add the marinated chicken and stir-fry until 80% cooked. Transfer to a fine mesh strainer held above the wok to let the excess oil drip back in. Set the strainer above a clean bowl and set aside.

2. Sauté the pickled red chilies. Remove all but 3 tablespoons of oil from the wok and heat over high heat. Add the pickled red chilies and stir-fry for a few seconds.

Cooking marinated shredded chicken in a wok. Added pickled chilies sauce to wok.

3. Sauté the aromatics. Add and stir-fry the spring onion white and light green parts, ginger, and garlic until fragrant.

4. Stir-fry the chilies and veggies. Take care to not let the dried red chilies burn. Then add the blanched sliced mushrooms and bamboo shoots and toss for a few seconds to combine.

5. Add the chicken and sauce. Stir-fry to combine until the sauce thickens and coats everything well.

6. Toss through spring onion greens. Briefly to combine, then switch off the heat.

Process steps to make Yu Xiang Chicken stir-fry in a wok.

Serve! Transfer to a serving plate or dish and serve immediately with warm steamed rice!

Plate with spicy garlic sauce chicken stir-fry and two bowls with rice.

Full detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.

Cook’s Tips

  • Partially freeze the meat before slicing. Freezing the chicken for 20 minutes will make it partially solid and easier to slice into thin strips than a slippery fresh chicken breast piece.
  • Wet your knife as you slice the meat. It’ll help prevent sticking.
  • Use a large wok or heavy bottomed frying pan. A nonstick carbon steel or cast iron wok works best for delivering the signature wok hei (“breath of the wok”) to the stir-fry dish. But a deep heavy bottomed frying pan would work well if you don’t own a wok.
  • Adjust spice level to taste. Use less pickled red chilies sauce, fresh red chilies, and dried red chilies to make this dish milder. You can also omit the pure chili oil in the stir-fry sauce.
Chopsticks pulling up a bite of spicy garlic sauce shredded chicken stir-fry from a plate.

FAQs

What is Yu Xiang Rou Si in English?

Commonly on Chinese restaurant menus in the West, Yu Xiang Rou Si is called Pork with Garlic Sauce in English. The reason being is that customers are more likely to order a dish called “pork with garlic sauce” over the literal English translation of the dish’s name, which is “fish-fragrant pork”.

What do bamboo shoots taste like?

They are mild flavored with a slightly sweet and earthy taste. Although not hard in texture, they have a crunchy characteristic which is a good contrast to the slightly rubbery and chewy cloud ear mushrooms and tender chicken in this dish.

How to store Lao Gan Ma Pickled Red Chilies sauce?

Once the jar has been opened, seal tightly and store in the fridge. Use within a few months.

Chopsticks pulling up a bite of shredded chicken stir-fry and closeup of stir-fry in a plate. Text overlay "Yu Xiang Chicken", "Sichuan Shredded Chicken with Spicy Garlic Sauce", and "thatspicychick.com".

More Easy Stir-fries


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Plate with shredded spicy garlic sauce chicken stir-fry.

Yu Xiang Chicken (Sichuan Yu Xiang Rou Si)

Tender shredded chicken and veggies get stir-fried in a mouthwatering spicy, sweet, and tangy garlicky sauce in this DYNAMITE Yu Xiang Chicken stir-fry!

  • Author: Lavina
  • Prep Time: 25
  • Cook Time: 10
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stir-fry
  • Cuisine: Sichuan
Scale

Ingredients

For the Chicken Marinade:

  • 340 grams / 12 ounces Chicken Breasts, boneless, skinless – cleaned and pat-dried, cut into thin slivers
  • ¼ TSP Kosher Salt (see note 1)
  • 1.5 TSP Potato Starch
  • 2 TSP Shao Xing Rice Wine
  • 1 TBLS Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce
  • ½ TSP Sesame Oil

For the Sauce:

  • 1 TSP Potato Starch
  • 1 TBLS White Sugar
  • 1/8 TSP Kosher Salt
  • 1 TBLS Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce
  • 2 TBLS Shao Xing Rice Wine
  • 1 TBLS Chinkiang Vinegar
  • ½ TSP Dark Soy Sauce
  • 1 TSP Sesame Oil
  • 1 TSP Pure Chili Oil (without flakes/seeds)
  • ¼ cup + 2 TBLS Water

For the Yu Xiang Chicken Stir-fry:

  • 10 grams / ¼ cup Dried Cloud Ear Mushrooms (or Wood Ear Mushrooms – see note 2)
  • ¼ cup Peanut Oil
  • 23 TBLS chopped Pickled Red Chilies (I use Lao Gan Ma Pickled Red Chilies Saucesee note 3)
  • 1 Spring Onion (Scallion/Green Onion) – chopped, white and light green parts separated from dark green parts
  • 2 TBLS minced Ginger
  • 6 Garlic cloves – minced
  • 15 fresh Red Chilies (optional – see note 4), I used Bird’s Eye, but any small hot red chilies will work), to taste – chopped
  • 310 Dried Red Chilies (see note 5), to taste – snipped into ½-inch pieces
  • 80 grams / about ½ cup sliced canned Bamboo Shoots (or use fresh – see note 6)

Instructions

Prep:

  1. Soak the dried mushrooms: Place the dried wood ear (or cloud ear) mushrooms in a bowl filled with water. Allow to soak for 20 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. They will expand and become tender as they rehydrate. Once rehydrated, drain the mushrooms into a fine mesh strainer and rinse until the water runs clear. Pat-dry, then slice into thin strips.
  2. Marinate the chicken: Slice the chicken breasts into thin strips. Then slice the strips into thin slivers no larger than ½-cm wide. Combine the chicken slivers, kosher salt, potato starch, Shao Xing rice wine, low sodium light soy sauce and sesame oil in a medium bowl. Mix well to combine and set aside.
  3. Make the sauce: Combine the potato starch, white sugar, kosher salt, low sodium light soy sauce, Shao Xing rice wine, chinkiang vinegar, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, pure chili oil, and water in a small measuring cup (for easier pouring) or bowl. Mix well to combine, then set aside.
  4. Prepare the fresh and dry ingredients: Chop the spring onion, ginger, garlic, fresh red chilies, and snip the dried red chilies into ½-inch pieces. Drain and rinse the canned bamboo shoots and slice into thin strips (if they’re not pre-sliced).
  5. Blanch the mushrooms and bamboo shoots: Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the sliced mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Boil for 1-2 minutes, then drain into a fine mess strainer and run cold water on top to shock them and halt the cooking process.

For the Yu Xiang Chicken Stir-fry:

  1. Cook the chicken: Heat ¼ cup peanut oil over high heat in a large wok. Once hot, add the marinated chicken and immediately spread the pieces out in the wok. Stir-fry for 40 seconds until 80% cooked. Transfer to a fine mesh strainer held above the wok to let the excess oil drip back in. Set the strainer above a clean bowl and remove all but 3 tablespoons of oil from the wok.
  2. Sauté the aromatics: Heat the oil over high heat in the wok. Once hot, add the pickled red chilies and stir-fry for 20 seconds. Add the spring onion white and light green parts, ginger, and garlic and stir-fry for 20 seconds until fragrant.
  3. Stir-fry the chilies: Add the fresh and dried red chilies and stir-fry briefly to combine, taking care to not let the dried red chilies burn.
  4. Add the veggies: Add the sliced mushrooms and bamboo shoots and toss for 20-30 seconds to combine.
  5. Add the chicken and sauce: Give the sauce a quick stir with a spoon (the potato starch will have settled at the bottom). Add the partially cooked chicken and pour the sauce over everything in the wok. Stir-fry for 30-40 seconds until the sauce thickens and coats everything well.
  6. Toss through spring onion greens: Toss through the spring onion dark green parts and switch off the heat.
  7. To Serve: Transfer to a serving plate or dish and serve immediately with warm steamed rice.

Notes

  1. Kosher salt. Use half the amount if using iodized table salt.
  2. Dried Cloud Ear/Wood Ear Mushrooms. This dish is traditionally made with a Chinese wood ear mushrooms. I used dried cloud ear mushrooms as they’re similar in appearance, taste, and texture. Half cup (about 60 grams) fresh wood or cloud ear mushrooms can be used instead if they are easily available to you. They’ll only need rinsing before slicing, not soaking.
  3. Pickled Red Chilies. Traditionally, this dish is made with pickled fresh er jing tiao chilies (pao la jiao – 泡辣椒) in the Sichuan region. Since that’s not easily available outside of China, I used Lao Gan Ma Pickled Red Chilies Sauce. It’s a simple blend of chopped hot red chilies, water, salt, MSG, and potassium sorbate (a food preservative) and has a hot and tangy flavor profile. It’s commonly used as a topping condiment, but works incredibly well in stir-fries too. Look for it an Asian supermarket or purchase it online. Substitute with chopped Mexican or Thai pickled red chilies or sambal oelek in a pinch to yield a similar flavor. Another good substitute would be Sichuan Pixian Dou Ban Jiang (fermented chili bean paste) which is available at Asian supermarkets and online. They both have a similar spicy flavor. The difference is that dou ban jiang is made with fermented fava beans in addition to pickled peppers and has a deeper and stronger flavor. I used 3 tablespoons pickled red chilies sauce, but you can use 2 tablespoons for a slightly milder dish. If using Sichuan Pixian Dou Ban Jiang, I recommend using 1-2 tablespoons as it can be quite salty.
  4. Fresh Bird’s Eye Red Chilies. Adjust to taste and use any other hot red chilies you like. Omit for a milder dish.
  5. Dried Red Chilies. I used spicy Chinese Xiao Mi La dried red chilies. Any type of small Chinese or Thai dried red chilies can be used though. If using Thai Bird’s Eye dried red chilies, use less as they tend to be hotter than most Chinese dried red chilies.
  6. Bamboo Shoots: This is the tender part of the bamboo plant and is a vegetable that’s commonly used in Sichuan and Asian cuisine. It’s available in fresh, dried, frozen, and canned form. Canned or fresh is preferred for this recipe. I used a small bag of pre-sliced canned bamboo shoots that I purchased from a Thai shop in a wet market. Look for it in an Asian supermarket, at a Thai grocery shop, or online. Leftovers can be stored in a sealed airtight jar filled with water in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. Be sure to change the water daily though. If unavailable, substitute with peeled and julienned celtuce or celery.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 319
  • Sugar: 11.1g
  • Sodium: 440.2mg
  • Fat: 16.3g
  • Saturated Fat: 2.7g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 0g
  • Trans Fat: 11.6g
  • Carbohydrates: 22.6g
  • Fiber: 4.3g
  • Protein: 23.4g
  • Cholesterol: 62.1mg

The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

This post may contain affiliate links. We are a part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

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