Chinese Cola Chicken

11 Feb

chinesecolachicken001So there I was, reading the student newspaper with my class, when an article on weird foods popped up. One of the foods mentioned therein happened to be Pepsi-chicken flavored potato chips, which are apparently a thing in China. Which is apparently because cola chicken is a popular dish, in some parts of China. Pepsi chicken.  It didn’t sound like a very intuitive combination, but the more I thought about it, the more I actually wanted to try it. I mean, I’d heard of using cola in barbecue sauce, and I’d heard of using it to marinate/tenderize meat. Why not?

So I did.

This was admittedly a complete and utter experiment, based tenuously off of this recipe, and there are a number of things I would do differently if I made it a second time. For instance, googling the appropriate handling of cardamom pods before putting them into a dish, not after. All in all, though, I think it turned out pretty good. It’s sweet, a bit spicy, and has a definite gingery kick. It would be great over a little steamed rice.


2 chicken breasts, sliced thin
ginger (roughly a finger-length), sliced very thin
3 large stalks green onion, cut into thumb-length segments, then halved or quartered lengthwise
1/2 cup cooking wine (Korean: mirim/Japanese: mirin)

2-3 tbsp cooking oil (I used grapeseed; it needs to withstand high temperatures without smoking)
1 tbsp sugar (I used organic cane sugar)
1/4 cup and 1/2 cup (separated) Dr Pepper or preferred cola (don’t use diet)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp szechuan pepper, ground (also called sichuan or prickly ash)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 to 1 tsp cardamom seeds (removed from the pods first!)
3 large mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp sesame oil


Combine the chicken, ginger, cooking wine, and the white portions of the green onion in a glass bowl to marinate for 20-30 minutes. These parts of the onion will cook longer than the rest, so try not to include the green portions that go limp very quickly.

Heat cooking oil in a wok over high flame. Add the sugar, stirring quickly, until it turns caramel-colored and liquefies in the oil. Add the contents of the marinade bowl carefully to the hot oil, stir-frying for several seconds as the chicken begins to turn white. Add the 1/4 cup cola and soy sauce to the mix. Stir fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the szechuan pepper, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, and cardamom seeds. Stir well. Then, add the remainder of the onions, the mushrooms, the 1/2 cup remaining cola, and 1/2 cup water. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low to simmer for 15 minutes. The liquid should reduce to a somewhat syrupy consistency in that time.

Turn off heat, add sesame oil, and stir well. Serve immediately.

Serves 2.

Now, for some things I would perhaps do differently…

I am not a fan of soggy vegetables.  I might opt to keep the green onion out of the marinade entirely, and only add it in for the very last simmering stage. I also might include some chopped red bell pepper at that point, for color and texture. Almonds are another possibility, for crunch. I could easily have added more red pepper flakes, though I wasn’t unhappy with the mildly spicy kick of this, when paired with the sweet gingery flavor.

If I wanted an orange chicken dish without a lot of fussing, I might use orange soda instead of cola, and add some sliced lemon and a dab of shredded cabbage to simmer at the end. If I felt like making a sweet-hot, gingery beef dish, I could probably substitute beef (or pork) for the chicken, marinate it longer, add a little more heat to the spice, and include some green peppers or broccoli. Some firm tofu, marinated and seared at the beginning, would probably not go amiss, either. Also, if I were lacking the listed spices on hand, especially cardamom and szechuan pepper, Chinese 5-spice powder could be used instead of those and the cinnamon.

2 Responses to “Chinese Cola Chicken”

  1. Magnolia at 7:13 am #

    I presume the pods are the cardamon. Would ground cardamon work as well

    • oddvocado at 7:20 am #

      It should, though as with any spice, the ground form is less potent than the seed or pod form, and quickly loses flavor with storage.

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