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Disappearing Sweet Chili Lime Chicken + Giveaway

by Kristina Gill

For the recipes we share on the In the Kitchen With column, we always try to leave you with something you can use with other food you may eat, or something that may become a staple in your pantry. The second cookbook by Diana Kuan, Red Hot Kitchen, is the perfect book for staples. It features nine classic Asian chili sauces to make from scratch and recipes in which to use them. We chose the very simple Sweet Chili Sauce and accompanying Sweet Chili Lime Chicken recipes to feature this week because you can keep the sauce for so many things, and wow your guests at a potluck with the chicken! —Kristina

Diana Kuan is a food writer and photographer based in Brooklyn. She is the author of Red Hot Kitchen and The Chinese Takeout Cookbook. Her work has also appeared in Food & Wine, Time Out New York, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and Epicurious. In addition to writing and photography, Diana has taught cooking classes for the past 10 years in both Beijing and New York. Her favorite foods are dumplings, ramen, and tacos, usually with hot sauce on the side. Find out about Diana’s cooking classes at Appetite for China and her artwork at Plate & Pencil. Find her on Twitter here, and Instagram here.

For a chance to win a copy of Red Hot Kitchen, respond in the comments section below by March 15, 5PM EST to the following question: Which condiment(s) would we always find in your refrigerator / pantry at any given moment? We will announce the winner in the comments section, so be sure to check back!

Image above: Red Hot Kitchen, Photography by Diana Kuan

Image above: Diana Kuan

Image Above: Sweet Chili Sauce

Image above: Sweet Chili Lime Chicken

Sweet Chili Lime Chicken

This is an entree that disappears quickly whenever I serve it at potluck dinner parties. It’s difficult to say which part is more addictive—the crunchy and airy texture, or the flavors of sweet chili sauce mixed with freshly squeezed lime juice. The shallow-frying method in the recipe will produce the same crisp texture as deep-frying without using a lot of oil, and you have the option of getting the chicken extra crunchy by double-frying for 30 extra seconds.

Serves 4 as part of a multicourse meal


  • Sweet Chili Lime Chicken
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 tablespoons sweet chili sauce (recipe follows)
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 1½ cups cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups plus 1 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil
  • 8 dried red chilies (Japonés, serrano, Tien Tsin, or cayenne)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds, for garnish
  • Scallions, green parts thinly sliced, for garnish
  • Sweet Chili Sauce
  • 5 fresh red jalapeño or Fresno chilies, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch



1. In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce and egg whites. Add the chicken, toss to coat with the mixture, and let sit for 10 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, combine the sweet chili sauce, rice wine, lime juice, sesame oil, and chili flakes. Set the sauce aside.

3. In a large bowl or deep plate, toss the cornstarch with the salt and black pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat in the cornstarch, shaking off any excess before frying.

4. Pour the 3 cups of oil into a wok and heat until the temperature reads 350°F on a deep-fry thermometer. Working in two or three batches, fry the chicken cubes until golden brown on the outside and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes, flipping with tongs about halfway through to ensure even cooking. Transfer the chicken to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Optional: To get the chicken extra crispy, work in batches again and return the chicken to the oil for 30 more seconds before draining again on paper towels.

5. Pour the oil out of the wok into a heatproof container and save for discarding. Wipe the wok with a paper towel to remove any browned bits, but don’t wash.

6. Reheat the wok over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the dried chilies, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry until just fragrant, about 20 seconds. Pour in the sauce mixture and stir until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes.

7. Return the chicken to the wok and stir well to coat with sauce. Transfer the chicken to a serving dish. Garnish with sesame seeds and scallions and serve.


Sweet Chili Sauce

Known as nam chim kai in Thai, sweet chili sauce is remarkably easy to DIY at home. While glass bottled versions from Thailand are widely available in Southeast Asian and Chinese markets in the US, I like being able to control the amount of sweetness and heat in a sauce I use almost every day. Plus, you can find all the ingredients at your local market, and there are no additives or preservatives.

You can use it in dips for appetizers like summer rolls and fried tofu, glazes for chicken or fish, and even salad dressings and desserts. I love using it plain as a dip for raw vegetables or dumplings, a fiery alternative to hummus and soy sauce, respectively. The sweetness is easy to control by varying the amount of sugar, and the heat by choosing the type of chilies you use. Red jalapeños or Fresnos are my favorite because they give a medium heat closest to store-bought versions of sweet chili sauce. If you use spicier chilies like serranos or Thai spurs, you will need to double or triple the number of chilies to produce the same volume and color (and take out the seeds unless you prefer a flaming hot sauce!) You can also experiment with other fresh chilies that you come across. If you’d like to kick up the umami flavor, add a couple drops of fish sauce to your batch. Feel free to double, triple, or even quadruple the recipe.

Makes about 1½ cups

1. In a food processor, combine the chilies, garlic, rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and ½ cup water and blend until pureed.

2. Transfer the mixture to a medium skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the liquid is slightly reduced. Whisk the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water until the cornstarch is completely dissolved, then stir it into the chili pepper mixture. Cook, stirring, until the mixture has thickened, another 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer to a bowl to cool and use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge. The refrigerated sweet chili sauce will keep for up to 1 month.

Reprinted from Red Hot Kitchen: Classic Asian Chili Sauces from Scratch and Delicious Dishes to Make With Them by arrangement with Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2019, Diana Kuan.

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