What to do with leftover movie popcorn? Here’s a mod of my General Tso’s Prawns which uses popcorn instead of (or in addition to) rice as the starch to make popcorn chicken. Serves 4.
3-4 c popped popcorn*
1 lb boneless skinned chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 ½ t toasted sesame oil
1 large egg white
3 T soy sauce
scant ½ c cornstarch
Oil for frying
Ingredients, for gravy:
3 T rice vinegar (or white vinegar)
3 T sugar
3 T soy sauce
3 T Xiaoxing wine or dry sherry, or 1 T brandy
Generous squirt of Srirachi chili sauce (about ½ t plus)
½ t toasted sesame oil
1 T cornstarch
1 ½ T water
2 T oil, for sautéing the garlic
Garlic, peeled and sliced, about 6 large cloves (1/4 c)
Chicken stock or water
¼ c chopped scallions, including green parts
2 T finely grated ginger
Method: Thoroughly combine 1 ½ t toasted sesame oil, beaten egg white, soy sauce and cornstarch; add a few drops of water if necessary to moisten the cornstarch. Add the chicken to this marinade, mix until evenly coated, and allow to rest 20 minutes while you make the gravy.
Saute the sliced garlic in 2 T oil until it just begins to give off aroma. Add vinegar, sugar, wine, chili sauce and sesame oil; mix and heat. Separately, thoroughly mix 1T cornstarch and 1 ½ t water then add to the gravy. Stir over low heat to thicken. Add as much chicken stock (or water) as you like to stretch out the delicious sauce so long as it doesn’t lose its gravy texture; if you go too far mix a little more cornstarch and water and stir that in. When gravy is to your satisfaction, add grated ginger and scallion and turn off heat.
Fry the chicken in ½ inch of about 375 degree oil in a fry pan (or make small batches in a wok) about 2 minutes until brown and crispy; turn and repeat. Drain on paper towel. Combine chicken and gravy then mix in 2 cups popcorn just before serving (it will wilt after a few minutes); serve more popcorn on the side for guests to add if they wish.
*It’s hard to resist the free refill at my local cinema when you buy the large tub. But DO resist any temptation to butter, salt or otherwise season the popcorn. Of course, this dish is even better (though not as thrifty/miserly) when made with fresh popcorn cooked at home.