Taiwanese fried chicken is something you can find in night markets and small take-away shops in the country. Many times, it's a whole chicken breast that's been pounded flat so it looks enormous, then seasoned, dredged in starch and deep-fried. It's served whole, so it stays moist.
In this version, the chicken breast is cut into chunks which are fried briefly - just long enough to cook them through. Chicken breast dries out easily so it's essential that it's not overcooked.
Many recipes for Taiwanese fried chicken insist on using sweet potato flour as the coating. It gives a mild crunch but it’s not easy to find, so feel free to substitute cornstarch or plain (all-purpose) flour. Panko (Japanese bread crumbs) is not traditional, but use it for a nice crunch.
Use a pot that’s just large enough to hold five pieces of chicken at a time in one layer, with a little room to swim. If you use a larger pot, you will need more oil.
Cut the chicken breasts into three-bite pieces and put them in a bowl.
Use a fine grater (preferably a Japanese ceramic oroshigane) to grate the chunk of ginger until you have 15g (½ oz) of ginger purée. Put the purée into a small bowl.
Finely mince the garlic cloves and spring onions and add them to the bowl with the ginger. Mix in the soy sauce, salt, sugar, five-spice, pepper and 30ml (2tbsp) of cold water, then pour this over the chicken pieces and mix well. Leave at room temperature for one to two hours, mixing occasionally.
Mix together the ingredients for the seasoning mix.
Pour about 150g (1 cup and 2½tbsp) of your starch of choice into a wide, flat bowl (or a pie or cake pan).
Crack the egg into the bowl with the chicken and mix it in thoroughly.
Pour oil to a depth of about 5cm (2in) in a medium-size pot and place over a medium flame. Heat the oil to 170°C (340°F).
Work with five chicken pieces at a time. Place some of the chicken pieces in the bowl of starch and dredge them thoroughly. Firmly press the chicken pieces into the starch so the coating adheres and entirely covers the meat.
As soon as the pieces are coated, put them one by one in the hot oil, remembering the order in which you placed them. Let them cook for about 45 seconds, then turn them over, starting with the first that was placed in the pan. After frying them briefly, remove the chicken from the oil, again, starting with the first piece. Each piece should be fried for about 90 seconds in total (cut one open to check), or until just cooked through (larger pieces will take longer). Do not overcook. Drain the pieces on paper towels.
When it’s time to serve the chicken, reheat the oil to 180°C (350°F). If there’s not enough oil in the pan, add more.
If using Thai basil, add the leaves to the hot oil and fry for about 10 seconds. They might spatter, so be careful. Drain the fried leaves on paper towels.
Fry the chicken pieces a second time, for about 30 seconds. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.
As soon as the chicken pieces are refried, lightly but evenly sprinkle the seasoned salt over them, then turn them over and sprinkle the other side.
Pile the chicken and basil leaves into a dish and serve immediately, with the extra seasoned salt in a small bowl for diners to add, if they wish.