As the combines roll, pigeon shooting is in full flight and Cai ap Bryn has been getting creative in Shooting Times by putting a gamey twist on a Cantonese classic. Serves two.
Who doesn’t love a good takeaway? There is something so gloriously lazy about getting an Indian or a Chinese, but what I also love is trying to replicate takeaway recipes at home. The dish I’ve been dreaming of lately – a crispy chilli pigeon recipe – is a pigeon-based reimagining of that Cantonese classic crispy chilli beef.
Though certainly not healthy, this crispy chilli pigeon recipe is delicious and the subtle spice with the sweet-and-sour-style sauce lends itself perfectly to game. You could use venison here, but right now, given we are mid-harvest, pigeon is in abundance.
Like most of my other pigeon recipes, this dish primarily uses breast meat. In truth, there is little on the legs. If you are catering for people who have never tried pigeon, or may be apprehensive about it, this is certainly a good starting point. It tastes almost exactly like crispy chilli beef and it is simple to make, too. It’s also worth noting that, if you would like to make this for children, you can reduce or remove the heat by swapping out the chillis or decreasing the quantity.
Moist and moreish
When preparing the pigeon, the breasts need to be cut into ¼cm strips. The thinner they are, the crispier they become. Because the strips are thin, they absorb the sweet-and-sour flavour of the sauce, becoming incredibly moist and moreish.
This indulgent fakeaway dish has become a regular go-to for me, and I always make sure that I have some pre- cut pigeon slices in the freezer ready to go at a moment’s notice. Admittedly, though, it’s not quite as quick as getting on the phone. (Read our tips on freezing game here.)
Crispy chilli pigeon recipe
- 2 tsp Chinese five-spice
- Pinch of salt
- 5 heaped tbsp cornflour
- 350g pigeon breast, cut into thin strips
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- Half a small white onion, sliced
- ½ chilli, deseeded and finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, finely diced
- 2 bell peppers, sliced into strips
- 3½ tbsp rice vinegar
- 3 tbsp ketchup
- 3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
- 1½ tbsp soy sauce
- 500ml vegetable oil
- Place the Chinese five-spice and pinch of salt into a bowl with the cornflour.
- Place the thin pigeon strips in the cornflour until they are fully coated on all sides.
- In a wok, heat up the sesame oil on a medium to high heat. Add the onion, chilli, garlic and pepper, and fry for two minutes.
- Add the rice vinegar, ketchup and sweet chilli sauce, and cook on medium heat for another few minutes. Add the soy sauce, stir and then set aside.
- In a fryer or a deep-sided pan, heat the vegetable oil until it gets to around 180°C. Add the pigeon strips and fry until golden brown.
- Remove from the pan and put on a paper towel to drain. Mix the pigeon strips with the contents of the wok.
- Serve with a sprinkle of spring onion, egg-fried rice or noodles.