Chinese Burmese Chili Chicken

I just ❤ spicy stir-fries with lots of veggies, and one of our favorite stir-fry chefs is Grace Young. With an idea of what we hankered for in mind, we flipped through her Stir-Frying to Sky’s Edge cookbook, and stopped dead in our tracks with this Chinese Burmese Chili Chicken recipe. As the name implies, it reflects the fusion of Chinese and Burmese, plus Indian spices. Game on!

The paprika, cumin and chili powder are Indian spices that are incorporated into Burmese cooking, creating layers of lush flavor, and make a great counterpoint to the mild heat from the fresh Anaheim chili. At first bite the heat level is mild but it gradually builds up as you eat—although by no means overpowering.

We used boneless chicken thighs for this (about 40% more than called for), but you can also use the breast meat if desired. In addition, we have a tendency to be heavy-handed with other ingredients such as the garlic and ginger, but just go with your instincts. An absolute keeper in our books!


Chinese Burmese Chili Chicken

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thigh or breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 Tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil, for cooking
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 3/4″ chunks
  • 2 tsp. minced ginger
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
  • 1 medium Anaheim, cut into 1/2 slices with seeds
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2 slices
  • 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder


  1. In a medium bowl combine the chicken, 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
  2. In a small bowl combine the remaining ½ teaspoon cornstarch and 1/3 cup cold water. In a separate small bowl combine the paprika and cumin.
  3. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, add the onion, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 30 seconds or until the onions begins to wilt. 
  4. Push the onions to the sides of the wok, (we actually remove the onions to another bowl, and return them to the wok toward the end to reheat), carefully add the chicken and spread it evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed for 1 minute, letting the chicken begin to sear. Stir-fry 30 seconds or until the chicken is almost completely opaque.
  5. Add the ginger, garlic, and the paprika mixture, and stir-fry 1 minute or until the aromatics are fragrant and the chicken is well coated in the spices.
  6. Add the red and green bell peppers, reduce the heat to medium and stir-fry 2 minutes or until the peppers begin to soften. (Do not be alarmed if the spices stick a little to the bottom of the wok.)
  7. Add the fish sauce, chilies, zucchini, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and stir-fry 1 minute or until almost all of the liquid has evaporated.
  8. Re-stir the cornstarch mixture, swirl it into the wok, increase the heat to high, and stir-fry 1 minute or until the chicken is just done and the vegetables are crisp-tender. Remove the wok from the heat and stir in the chili powder.
  9. Serves 3 as a main dish with rice or 4 as part of a multi-course meal.

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