Vegan Hide and Seek “Chicken” is a flavour explosion with garlic, ginger, scallions and mouth-tingling Sichuan peppercorns but isn’t as spicy as it looks. Hide and Seek Chicken is one of many nicknames for La Zi Ji. It’s also known as Chongqing Chicken or Firecracker Chicken. This Sichuan dish consists of meat that’s chopped small and stir-fried with so many chillies that it takes patience to go hunting for it. Vegan Hide and Seek Chicken makes a great as a snack with drinks or tea or as a main dish on plain steamed rice. Balance it out with nutritious sides like Sauteed Lotus Root with Bok Choy or Stir-fried Yu Choy and Edamame.
Video tutorial for Vegan Hide and Seek Chicken (La Zi Ji)
Making La Zi Ji Vegan
This dish is easy to veganize since we just replace the crispy fried chicken with a vegan alternative. In this recipe, I’ve used Tofurky’s slow roasted chick’n. You can also use Gardien scallopini; just defrost slightly so you can cut into pieces, or Beyond Meat Chicken strips or similar. If you’re into making your own, try Avocados and Ales chickwheat but maybe incorporate some extra salt or flavour so you have something comparable to begin with.
Of course, if you’re not into faux meat, feel free to try this with smoked tofu, regular extra firm tofu, or maybe tofu puffs for Hide and Seek Tofu.
For another texture, I’m also using some shimei mushrooms. They’ll give us extra crispy chewy bits. I dumped them into the same bowl to marinate with the vegan chicken to reduce the amount of washing up needed later but truthfully, doing the two ingredients separately has its advantages. If you keep them separate, you can cook them separately in the wok so you can really control the cooking. Cooked together, the mushrooms will get much more browned and chewy than the vegan chicken. I like it that way but it’s also easier to accidentally burn things. So do what you prefer.
Special Ingredients for Vegan Hide and Seek “Chicken”
There are a few special ingredients for this dish which can all be purchased at Chinese grocery stores, or Asian markets that carry a lot of Chinese groceries, and online: Sichuan peppercorns, Fermented Chili Bean Paste, and Shaoxing wine. When buying Sichuan peppercorns, make sure they are whole and not pre-ground. Good quality peppercorns will be mostly husks. You don’t need the hard black kernal inside; pick them out if you want. When buying Fermented Chili Bean Paste (AKA Doubanjiang), try to get this brand. Other brands will vary in strength and saltiness. Shaoxing wine adds a distinctive aroma but you can skip it if you don’t want to cook with wine. Other than those special ingredients, the others should be pretty easy to find.
More recipes that use Fermented Chili Bean Paste (Doubanjiang) & Sichuan Peppercorns:
This recipe calls for a heaping cup of dried chillies but since they will remain whole throughout the cooking process, they don’t really add spicy heat to the dish. They’re more for decoration and just a hint of flavour. However, if you want to turn up the heat, just cut one chilli open. Or more if you like to live dangerously.
Since this is a strongly flavoured dish, I like to serve it with plain rice and lighter sides like the Sauteed Lotus Root and Bok Choy I made in this video. What would you do?
Recipe for Vegan Hide and Seek Chicken (La Zi Ji)
VEGAN HIDE AND SEEK “CHICKEN”
La Zi Ji is a Sichuan dish with many nicknames including Chongqing Chicken, Firecracker Chicken and Hide and Seek Chicken. I love the name Hide and Seek Chicken because it really describes the experience of digging through the heap of chillies to get to the tasty bits. Hide and Seek Chicken is easily made vegan by changing up the poultry for vegan chicken products, tofu, or chickwheat!
The recipe serves 2 – 4 people. Prep time: 15 minutes, Cook time: 8 – 15 minutes.
1 tablespoon doubanjiang (fermented broad bean chili paste)
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 scallions, white and green parts sliced lengthwise and divided from the chopped dark green parts
1 cup whole dried chillies
1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- Marinate the vegan “chicken and mushrooms: Cut or tear the vegan chicken into bite sized pieces. Combine them in a large bowl with the mushrooms, Shaoxing wine and light soy sauce. Mix well. Add the cornstarch and mix well again. Make sure you have all your ingredients measured out and ready to go before heating up your wok or large pan.
- Using the high-heat cooking oil of your choice (like canola, peanut, etc), generously coat the bottom of your wok or pan. Turn the heat to high, wait until the oil is hot and add a layer of mushrooms and vegan chicken. You may do this in two or more batches so the ingredients don’t overlap. When the bottom is golden brown, Flip and cook the other side. Remove the ingredients to drain on a plate and continue cooking the rest, adding more oil if you need to.
- When all the mushrooms and vegan chicken are nicely browned, scrape away any stuck on bits from the wok/pan and add the Sichuan peppercorns and Fermented Chili Bean Paste (doubanjiang). Turn the heat down to medium low to prevent the paste from burning. Use a spatula to break up the beans in the paste and let cook until the paste and the peppercorns are fragrant; about one minute.
- Add the chopped ginger, sliced garlic and sliced white and light green parts of the green onions. Turn the heat a bit higher and stir-fry for about a minute. If you find the paste sticking to the bottom of the pan, drop in a splash or two of water to help it release. Add the whole dried chillies.
- Add the vegan chicken and mushrooms back into your wok and fold in. Add the brown sugar, remaining Shaoxing wine, and sesame seeds. Fold to combine all the ingredients thoroughly. Garnish with the chopped dark green onion parts and serve. Enjoy!