Panda Express’ Sichuan Hot Chicken is its take on crispy chicken strips, which seem to be all the rage with fast food chains nowadays. The entree is breaded all-white meat chicken tossed in a spicy Sichuan peppercorn sauce and dusted with a secret spice blend.
It’s easily the crunchiest chicken item on the menu, although that texture is on the edges of the pieces where the coating is a bit thicker. The chicken within the breading of the strips I received was juicy. Of course, your results may vary because of someone who was overzealous with the wok tossing.
The sauce isn’t sticky like Orange Chicken or gloopy like what’s on mushroom chicken. Instead, it’s an oil-based sauce with the spices swimming in it. Panda’s Sichuan peppercorn sauce with the secret spice blend is savory, peppery, spicy, a smidge citrusy, and pretty darn good.
But it’s even better when you “Make it Spicy,” which is an option you have while ordering. If you do, your chicken will get sprinkled with an extra dose of the secret spice blend, which gives the breading an ominous look and amps up the heat AND flavor. To me, the added seasoning makes the standard Sichuan Hot Chicken pieces seem kind of bland. When I order this again, I’ll definitely “Make it Spicy.”
While the word “hot” is in its name, the regular Sichuan Hot Chicken isn’t what I would call “hot.” There’s a burn that slowly builds up to a mild level, but it doesn’t have me reaching for a soothing beverage. The “Make it Spicy” pieces are noticeably hotter, but it’s still not enough to make me want to shovel Panda’s fried rice into my mouth to relieve the burning. Also, whatever heat there is doesn’t linger for long.
My biggest issue with this entree deals with size. The pieces aren’t uniform. As you can see in the photo above, the ones on the left, which is a three-piece order of the standard Sichuan Hot Chicken, are dramatically smaller than the ones on the right, which is a three-piece order of the ones made spicy. Looking at those three small pieces on my styrofoam plate, I can’t help but think I’m getting ripped off a little. But if I got three of the ones on the right or more of the smaller pieces, I’d feel a bit better.
Sichuan Hot Chicken is another yummy sauced chicken selection from Panda Express. The Sichuan peppercorn sauce and secret spice blend are tasty, but they’re not quite good enough to make this limited-time menu item Orange Chicken-tastic or Beijing Beef-abulous.
Purchased Price: $9.20 (2-entree plate)
Size: 3-piece serving
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (3 pieces) 400 calories 26 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 910 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 19 grams of protein.