Yunnan grilled spatchcocks

Yunnan grilled spatchcocks

The Real Food of China
Leanne Kitchen

We will never forget the first time we landed in Dali in Yunnan Province. The doors of the aeroplane opened and we were greeted by a vista of wonderful open spaces and clean, fresh air — such a welcome relief after spending time in China’s hectic and relentless cities. We ate a version of this simple dish at one of the many restaurants dotted around the incredibly beautiful Erhai Lake.


Quantity Ingredient
1 1/2 teaspoons sichuan peppercorns
4 x 500g spatchcocks
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 lime, halved, to serve
Fresh chilli paste, to serve (optional)

Mint salad

Quantity Ingredient
50g mint leaves
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tablespoon clear rice vinegar, or to taste
2 tablespoons lime juice, or to taste
large pinch sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon peanut oil


  1. Dry-roast the peppercorns in a small, heavy-based frying pan over a medium–low heat, shaking the pan often, for 3–4 minutes, or until fragrant. Cool, then transfer to a mortar (or an electric spice grinder) and pound with the pestle to form a coarse powder.
  2. Using poultry shears or a large kitchen knife, cut down either side of the backbone of each spatchcock (reserve the backbones for a stock) then open each one out and firmly press down on the breastbone to flatten it. Trim any excess skin or fat from the spatchcocks. Place in a large bowl and add the garlic, sea salt, oil and ground Sichuan and black peppers. Rub thoroughly over the spatchcocks and leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours (refrigerate the spatchcocks if you intend to marinate them for the longer time).
  3. Heat a chargrill pan or barbecue grill plate to medium–high. Cook the spatchcocks for 25 minutes, turning occasionally. Check to see if the spatchcocks are cooked by piercing the thigh through the thickest part — if the juices run clear the birds are cooked; if not, continue cooking for a few more minutes.
  4. While the spatchcocks are cooking, make the mint salad. Wash and dry the mint leaves. Pick the leaves off the harder stems, but leave the mint and tender stems together. Combine the garlic, vinegar, lime juice, sugar and oils and mix well, then taste and adjust the seasoning by adding a little more vinegar and lime juice if needed. Add the mint leaves and toss until well coated in the dressing, then transfer to a bowl. When the spatchcocks are cooked, place them on a platter, cover with foil and rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the mint salad and lime halves, and with fresh chilli paste, if desired.
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