This recipe looks daunting, but actually it is very easy: basically, it is shredded chicken (cooked at home, or purchased from a shop) with rice noodles, soft-centred eggs and a few other ingredients. Only the black bean chilli relish takes a little time and, once you have a batch of that, you will not need to make it again for a while because it is far more than you will need for this dish. It keeps for a long time in the fridge and is a good condiment with noodles and soup dumplings.
If you're short on time, skip the step where the eggs are marinated in the soy sauce mixture. But don't leave out the spring onion-ginger sauce - it adds a lot of flavour to the dish.
You can add other vegetables to this noodle bowl, such as julienned carrot, bean sprouts (blanched for about 30 seconds) and shredded cabbage.
If you cannot find bird's-eye chillies, use other small, hot chillies, such as serrano.,
Make the black bean chilli relish. Briefly rinse the black beans and dried chillies under running water, then drain them and put them in a bowl. Pour 50ml (3tbsp and 1tsp) of boiling water over the black beans and chillies and leave to soften for at least 15 minutes.
Thinly slice the garlic cloves. Cut the bird's-eye chillies into thin rings, shaking out and discarding as many seeds as possible. Put the Sichuan peppercorns in an unoiled pan placed over a low flame. Shake the pan constantly to toast the Sichuan peppercorns until fragrant, them remove from the heat.
Pour the oil into a wok and place over a medium-high flame. When you see the oil shimmering on the surface, add the garlic, bird’s-eye chillies and Sichuan peppercorns, and stir constantly for 15 seconds. Add the black beans and dried chillies (and the soaking water) and stir constantly for about 30 seconds.
Stir in the soy sauce and sugar, then lower the flame. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Use the back of the wok spatula or ladle to crush some of the black beans in the wok, but leave most of them whole. Taste the mixture (it’s intense) and stir in more soy sauce and/or sugar, if necessary. Ladle the mixture into a sterilised jar. The solids should be covered with oil; if needed, add more.
Put the eggs in a saucepan and add enough water to cover them by 1cm (7/16 in). Put the pan over a medium flame and bring to the boil, then cover the pan with the lid. Remove from the heat and leave the eggs to poach for five minutes. Remove the eggs from the pan and put them into a medium-sized bowl filled with iced water. Leave for five minutes, then tap the eggs on the kitchen counter to crack the shells all over. Put the eggs back in the iced water (add more ice cubes, if necessary ) and leave for about 15 minutes (they peel much easier when cold). Carefully remove the shells, dipping the eggs in the iced water if the shells stick.
Put the soy sauce, sake and sugar in a bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Stir in 120ml (½ cup) of water, then add the peeled eggs and leave for at least an hour. Occasionally turn the eggs over so they marinate and colour evenly.
Soak the rice noodles in warm water for about 10 minutes, or until they soften, then drain them. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the rice noodles and cook until they are just tender - about 30 seconds. Drain the rice noodles, rinse with cold water then drain again.
Shred the chicken, and slice the skin into thin strips. Finely julienne the cucumber.
Rinse the drained rice noodles under hot running water, then drain again. Mix the noodles with the sesame oil and divide between four to six bowls. Top with the shredded chicken and skin, a large dollop of spring onion sauce, a small scoop of black bean relish, some cucumber and coriander sprigs.
Halve the eggs and add them to the bowls, then sprinkle each portion with sesame seeds, if using. Serve the extra spring onion sauce and black bean chilli relish on the side.