This spicy stir-fried chicken recipe is so easy and quick to make and one of my favorite dishes that I grew up eating. I loved it when my mom made it and now it’s a popular dish in my kitchen too.
I always go for this spicy stir-fried chicken (we Sri Lankans call it “Chicken thel daala”) when I want something spicy for my rice plate or to go with my stir-fried vegetable noodles but I don’t have tons of time in my hand. And I always have the ingredients I need for this recipe in my kitchen. Even if I don’t have them all it still turns out great.
The absolute must-have ingredients for this chicken recipe are Chicken, onion, garlic, chili flakes, turmeric, vinegar, salt, and oil. These ingredients are very easy to find in everyone’s kitchen anywhere in the world. You can make a decent chicken stir-fry with just these few ingredients. But if you want to truly elevate the flavor and aroma, curry leaves and pandan leaves are must-have ingredients too. No Sri Lankan would make this stir-fry without those two ingredients. I wouldn’t say the rest of the ingredients are a must, but they also contribute to the dish to make it more aromatic and flavorful. Especially Habanero, which adds a unique floral scent to the dish while also adding heat.
A few tips you’re going to need:
- Highly recommend using dark meat (not white meat/breast meat). Which means the meat from thighs and legs. For extra flavor, you can use chicken with bones. But it’s hard to chop bone-in chicken into smaller pieces, so I use boneless chicken thighs instead. And they turn out perfect every time. Dark chicken meat is high in red fibers and fat. So they have more flavor and don’t dry out as quickly as white meat.
- If you want to use white meat then cut them with bones if possible. And adjust the cooking time so they don’t dry out and become rubbery.
- Do not overcook your chicken. That’s what makes the chicken rubbery and dry. Especially if you use white meat. You can use a thermometer to see if the chicken is cooked, which is 165F. But what I do is, I break a piece of chicken in half using my spoon and see the inside is no longer pink.
- Do not chop habaneros into smaller pieces. I don’t want you to bite into pieces of habaneros plus it adds a ton of heat to the dish if you chop it finely. I remove them as I eat my chicken so I cut them into thick slices. You only need it to infuse with aroma and flavor. Remove seeds to reduce the heat if needed.
- If you’re going for a mild heat level, then reduce the amount of chili flakes you use and skip habaneros as it adds a lot of heat. But if you can handle heat I highly recommend adding fresh habaneros, It adds a unique flavor.
- Do not cook in high heat either. Since we add a lot of onions, they need some time to wilt and cook down.
What to serve with:
This recipe is enough for about 6 servings.
I like to serve this with rice or stir-fried vegetable noodles. My favorite menu is to serve with this chicken stir-fry dish is rice, creamy red lentil curry, and any green salad or stir-fry. Also goes well with rice and Sri Lankan coconut sambol.
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Easy Spicy Stir-fried Chicken
This spicy stir-fried chicken aka "Chicken thel daala" recipe is so easy and quick to make and one of my favorite dishes that I grew up eating. Hope you like it too.
Cut the chicken into small chunks (roughly about 2 inches). Use dark chicken meat. Both bone-in and boneless chicken work for this recipe.
Mix chicken pieces with vinegar, black pepper, half of the given amount of salt, and turmeric (we are going to use the rest of them later with onions). Set aside to marinate until you ready other ingredients.
Heat 2 tbsp of coconut oil and add cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon into the oil. Saute for a few seconds and add pandan leaves, curry leaves, and chopped garlic.
When the garlic starts to brown, add your sliced onion, chili flakes, green chilies if you like more heat,rest of the turmeric, and salt and saute for about a minute while mixing well with the rest of the ingredients.
Add chicken and habanero and mix with everything. Saute for about a minute.
Cover with a lid and cook on medium heat for about 10-15 mins or until your chicken is fully cooked. You'll have some delicious gravy from onions and chicken. Taste the gravy and adjust salt if needed.
Awesome chicken stir fry, will definitely try it again