07 July

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken

(Yan Su Ji 鹽酥)


July 6: National Fried Chicken Day

McDonald’s has chicken nuggets. KFC has popcorn chicken. Taiwan’s night markets have yan su ji—flavorful, seasoned bite-sized pieces of crispy fried chicken.

Ling-Chen (Monica) C., Islander’s roommate from our college alma mater, took us to the Night Market in Hualien when we visited her and her family in Taiwan. We went from stall to stall tasting popular foods like coffin bread, scallion pancakes, lu rou fan (braised minced pork over rice), pineapple cakes, soup dumplings, beef noodles in a cup, boba tea and fried chicken pieces on wooden skewers (also known as salt crisp chicken or popcorn chicken).

Some boba tea places in North America sell Taiwanese popcorn chicken as a snack, too. But Islander’s former ESL student, YaJu Y., also from Taiwan, taught us how to cook it, so we can enjoy it whenever we crave it. Garnished with crisp, flash-fried basil leaves, and this food is a surefire favorite when we gather with friends—everyone takes a toothpick and eats it hot as soon as it comes out of the deep fryer!

For National Fried Chicken Day, try a Taiwanese style treat: popcorn chicken.


(From YaJu Y.)


  • 4-5 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tablespoon ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon rice cooking wine or sherry
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Sweet potato flour (see Notes)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt to sprinkle (traditional but optional)
  • Fresh Thai basil, washed with leaves trimmed


Trim fat from the chicken and dice into bite-sized pieces. In a separate bowl, mix together the minced garlic and grated ginger.

Mix in the sugar, five spice powder, white pepper, wine and soy sauce.

Toss the chicken in the marinade and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (better if overnight for more intense flavor). Beat the egg with the baking soda. Then coat the chicken pieces in a dish of sweet potato flour.

Deep fry in small batches for 2-3 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt (optional). Carefully fry the basil leaves for 30 seconds (beware of hot oil  splatters). Drain on paper towels. Mix with the popcorn chicken. Serve hot with toothpicks or skewers. May serve with a chili dipping sauce.


  • Sweet potato flour may be found at Asian grocery stores. Use the flour instead of the powder variety to give the popcorn chicken a coarser and crunchier texture. Instead of sweet potato flour or starch, other substitutions may include tapioca starch, corn starch or rice flour.
  • YaJu likes to marinate the chicken overnight for a more intense flavor. But even when we chilled the mixture for an hour, the flavor was still good. We did not sprinkle additional salt after frying since there is already a lot of sodium in the soy sauce. YaJu says others like to sprinkle more five spice powder and pepper as well.

Blueberry Scones

July 8: National Blueberry Day

Our love for scones is reflected in our blog, as we have a separate section just for the many scones recipes under our Theme Menus. We even got our Hawaii expatriate friends Pat and Phyllis S. into scones. They love them just as much as we do now. We used to just buy the scone mixes at the store but they are better made “from scratch”, especially if it is blueberry scones. The mix contains the dried fruit but nothing can beat the fresh fruit in these scones that literally burst with flavor!

When we visit and stay with Pat and Phyllis in San Antonio, Texas, they serve scones for snacks or breakfast. Our favorite was their blueberry scones—so much so that Phyllis had to bake another batch! Because we don’t get to see them as often as we’d like, they gave us blueberry scones to eat on the long drive back to the Gulf Coast. And they also gave us the recipe so we can make them at home and share with our blog readers on National Blueberry Day and throughout July—National Blueberry Month.


(From Phyllis S.)


  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 – ½ cup sugar, granulated white
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • zest from one orange
  • ½ cup salted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg
  • ½+ cup heavy whipping cream, cold (reserve about 1-2 tablespoons for brushing on top)
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh
  • coarse/turbinado sugar (optional topping)


In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and orange zest.

Cut in the cold butter pieces. Mix until it resembles coarse crumbs. Beat in the eggs and cream until a sticky dough is formed.

Transfer the dough onto a clean, floured surface. Fold in the blueberries. Shape into a round disc about 1-inch thick. Cut into 8 wedges and separate them. Place onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush a little bit of the remaining cream on top.

Sprinkle with coarse/turbinado sugar (optional). Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for around 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven. Serve warm.


  • Substitute the citrus and use lemon instead of orange zest.
  • If the dough is too dry, add a little bit of cream. If the dough is too wet, add a little bit of flour.
  • Avoid overmixing the dough or the scones will get too hard.
  • Search our blog for more scones and blueberry recipes.

Lilikoi (Passion Fruit) Ice Cream

July: National Ice Cream Month

Anyone who is passionate about passion fruit flavors will love lilikoi ice cream. This no-churn recipe only has 3 ingredients, the main one being passion fruit pulp. Lilikoi, as passion fruit is called in Hawaii, grows abundantly there and can be found all over the islands (it is also cultivated in California and Florida in the United States).

But in Texas where we live and in other places that do not have the fresh fruit readily available, we just look for the frozen pulp, defrost and use it in our recipes. The tart taste is balanced with the sweetened condensed milk and cream—and it reminds Islander of her beloved home state far away. Cool off this summer with a tropical treat and make no-churn lilikoi ice cream during National Ice Cream Month.



  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • ¾ – 1 cup passion fruit pulp, defrosted


Beat the cream until stiff peaks form. In a large bowl, mix the condensed milk with passion fruit pulp.

Fold the whipped cream into this mixture until smooth, being careful not to whip more air into it. Place in a loaf pan or freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze for at least six hours or overnight. Remove from the freezer. Let stand for a few minutes and scoop into cones or dessert dishes.


  • Optional: Boost the color of the lilikoi ice cream with a few drops of golden yellow gel color/food paste.
  • Look for other lilikoi and ice cream recipes by searching our blog.

« Previous PageNext Page »