Chilli chicken with chesnuts

Chinese celery is smaller than the common variety and adds aromatic flavour to stir-fries and soups. If you can't find it, substitute with regular celery. I'm a big fan of dried Chinese chestnuts: their wonderful, smoky flavour adds enormous interest to stir-fries. You'll find them in Asian supermarkets. If you ever spot fresh water chestnuts, peel them and add straight into stir-fries, braises, soups and dumplings - they're amazing.


  • 50g dried Chinese chestnuts
  • 400g free-range chicken thigh fillets, skin removed
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 spring onions, cut into 5cm lengths
  • 40g fresh black funghi, roughly torn
  • 1 small bunch Chinese celery
  • 2 tbsp chilli bean paste
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp chilli oil
  • Coriander sprigs, to garnish


Soak the chestnuts overnight in water. Drain and simmer in fresh water until tender (about 45-60 minutes).
When cool, cut chestnuts in half.

Cut each chicken thigh fillet into four pieces. Remove leaves from celery. Roughly chop and reserve a small handful of the leaves. Trim the ends and cut the stalks into long diagonal slices.

Heat a large wok on a high heat until just smoking. Add oil and when hot add the chicken pieces. After stir-frying for about a minute to seal the chicken, add spring onion, funghi and celery. Quickly fry together for about 30 seconds, then add the chilli bean paste and cook for about a minute until fragrant.

Reduce heat and add the sugar, soy sauce and stock. Bring to a simmer, add the chestnuts and simmer gently for about 3-5 minutes until sauce is lightly thickened. Add the sesame and chilli oils and check the seasoning.

Spoon into into a large, deep plate to share, garnish with the celery leaves and coriander sprigs and serve immediately.

NOTES: Want something to drink?

A well-balanced, off-dry riesling with some palate weight helps combat the chilli in this dish. The 2014 Felton Road Bannockburn is one of the fantastic rieslings coming from New Zealand's Central Otago region: its citrus and hints of tropical fruits are balanced by wet stone-like minerals.

First published in the Good Weekend. Photography by William Meppem and Jennifer Soo. Styling by Hannah Meppem. Food preparation by Nick Banbury.