Sichuan Braised Chicken with Chestnut + Shiitake (Banli Shaoji, 板栗烧鸡)


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Cooking With Pixian Doubanjiang: Braised Chicken

Sichuan braised chicken with chestnut and shiitake (板栗烧鸡, bǎnlì shāojī) in a dutch oven requires minimal babysitting for maximum flavor. Ma’s side of the family prepares shaoji with whole chicken and traditional taro obbligato, but this recipe combines bone-in chicken legs, roasted chestnuts and dried shiitake with the usual Pixian hongyou douban for everyday shaoji (within the hour!).

The fact that we now call this dish “everyday” says it all. One godless fall day in her early youth, Mala Mama and her two older brothers were holding down the frontline of dinner preparation while the adults were out of the house, taking care of some business now long-forgotten.

The task? Slaughter and dress the chicken.

Although cleaning and defeathering were common enough chores for the kids, the adults always handled the killing. That day, younger brother held down the chicken, older brother wielded the meat cleaver, sister stood watch, and everyone got the scare of their lives when the knife came down and their chicken sprung back to physiological life, running around the courtyard headless and full-tilt.

product shot of dark soy sauce, Zhongba light soy sauce, shaoxing wine, roasted rapeseed oil, Mala Market chilis and Sichuan pepper, Pixian douban, ginger, bay leaf, star anise
All pantry ingredients except bay leaf now available at The Mala Market. Not depicted: our new Zhongba dark soy sauce!

The point is, grabbing a parcel of slaughtered, plucked, processed and packaged free-range chicken legs from the fridge and eating banli shaoji within the hour is a lot less work (and emotional scarring) these days. Not to mention you don’t have to raise the chicken first. So by previous standards, this shaoji almost braises itself.

Soft, succulent shiitake is roasted chestnut’s toothsome foil in banli shaoji’s supporting lineup. Although Ma loves her braised whole chicken and taro with all the nostalgia of a woman who now recalls headless chicken fondly, even she admits my version is tastier. So the jury’s in: Sichuan braised chicken belongs in your dutch oven and on your dinner table.

We use commoners’ red oil doubanjiang in our recipe because that’s what was available to Ma growing up. Besides, we think the lighter taste suits chicken best. Use whatever dried chilis you have, but if you like things less hot, leave them whole instead of chopping. If the seeds aren’t exposed (or if they’re separated out), then the dish won’t be as spicy.

For the fastest meal prep, cold-soak dried 香菇 (xiānggū) shiitake mushrooms in the morning so you can skip straight to chopping and slicing come supper. If you forget, or if you found this recipe at 5 p.m. (hello! welcome!), it’ll take you closer to the full hour to make this dish. However, since much of that time is hands-off, you won’t have to cut any corners to throw rice in the steamer and get a whole plate of veggies on the table to serve alongside your shaoji.

uncovered dutch oven with bamboo spatula scooping finished braised chicken
We roast and peel our own chestnuts and freeze batches for later use, but you can use any pre-roasted chestnut available, including frozen

For more recipes cooking with our Pixian doubanjiang, try my Chao Larou Stir-fry with Sichuan Wind-Cured Pork Belly. Also try Taylor’s Wok-Fried Snapper and infinitely versatile Super Sichuan Stir-Fry Sauce!

Sichuan Braised Chicken with Chestnut + Shiitake (Banli Shaoji, 板栗烧鸡)

By: Kathy Yuan | The Mala Market | Inspiration & Ingredients for Sichuan Cooking


  • 6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 pounds free-range bone-in skin-on chicken legs
  • ½ tablespoon Chinese rapeseed oil (caiziyou preferred) enough to coat pan bottom
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Pixian doubanjiang (spicy broad bean paste)
  • 1 thumb fresh skin-on ginger, smashed
  • ½ teaspoon whole huajiao (Sichuan pepper)
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese light soy sauce (Zhongba preferred)
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese dark soy sauce (Zhongba preferred)
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 dried Sichuan chilis (gan lajiao, we used chaotianjiao)
  • ½ cup reserved mushroom soaking water add more to cover sliced mushrooms as needed
  • 285 grams cooked and peeled chestnuts approx. 10 ounces



  • Rinse dried mushrooms in cold water and then soak in warm (not so hot you can't touch it) water for 20 minutes. Strain, squeezing extra water from mushrooms and reserving soaking liquid. Slice.
  • While mushrooms soak, chop chicken legs through the bone into chopstickable sections (not as small as bite-size, one drumstick gets divided into three pieces for scale). Do NOT debone. Leaving each section bone-in ensures tender, juicy and more evenly braised chicken.


  • Preheat your dutch oven on medium heat, adding enough oil to coat bottom. We used a 2-quart oven.
  • In hot dutch oven, add douban, smashed ginger and huajiao. Stirfry 30 seconds. Turn heat to medium high and add chopped chicken, stirfrying until browned on all sides. Add sliced mushroom and stirfry briefly to mix.
  • Add cooked chestnuts, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, star anise, bay leaf, dry chilis and reserved mushroom soaking liquid. Stir well. The chicken does not need to be covered, but make sure any mushroom slices and chestnuts are immersed. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Stir and replace cover halfway through.
  • After 15 minutes, check that chicken is cooked through and adjust for flavor and doneness as desired.


If you plan ahead, overnight (or all day) cold-soaked mushrooms provide the best texture and flavor for dried mushrooms. Rinse and soak in the morning and they’ll be ready for use by dinnertime. Hot water will reconstitute dried mushrooms faster at the expense of flavor, so we never do this for top-grade shiitake. Fresh and dried shiitake are not substitutable.

Tried this recipe?

About Kathy Yuan

Kathy is a first-gen, twenty-something daughter of two Sichuan immigrants who cooked her way back to her parents’ kitchen during the pandemic and is now helping Ma (you can call her Mala Mama) keep generational family recipes alive. All photos shot and edited by her.

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