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Recipe: Dai-style lime chicken

By in Features on

Editor's note: Georgia Freedman is a freelance food and travel writer — and former resident of Kunming — who chronicles her adventures traveling and cooking in Yunnan at China South of the Clouds.

Before moving to Kunming, Freedman was the managing editor of the American food magazine Saveur. She now contributes to Saveur, The Wall Street Journal, Imbibe, The Art of Eating and other publications.

This bright, spicy, herb-laden dish, is sometimes called 'ghost chicken' or guiji (鬼鸡). In Yunnan the dish is made with black-skinned chicken, with the skin left on for extra flavor and color. To approximate that chicken's flavor, it's best to use a free-range bird for this recipe.


2 chicken breasts
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
5 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons sawtooth herb, roughly chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons fish mint root, cut into one-inch pieces (optional)
2-5 Thai or bird's eye chilies, thinly sliced
1/2 tablespoon salt
juice of 3 limes


Begin by poaching the chicken breasts. Put the breasts into a pot with just enough water to cover. Season with a pinch of salt and bring to a boil, then cover the pot with a lid, lower the flame, and simmer for ten minutes.

Remove the pot from the stove and allow the chicken to sit in the hot liquid for another 20 minutes to continue cooking. After 20 minutes have passed, drain the liquid and set the chicken aside to cool.

Once the chicken breasts have cooled, remove the skin (if any) and discard, then use your fingers to pull the meat into thin strips. This should yield about two cups of meat. Toss the chicken with the rest of the ingredients. Taste the dish, and if the flavor is not strong and piquant, add more lime juice or salt as necessary.

Serve cold and enjoy!

Top image: Georgia Freedman
Bottom image: Daguan Weekly

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Thank you SO much for that! I am addicted to this dish. Probably my favorite one in Yunnan.

Thanks for the recipe. It is also a favourite of mine. Would you be able to provide the Chinese characters for the two yellow highlighted herbs? Or if anyone else knows them, I would appreciate it. Thanks, kindly

Sawtooth herb: 刺芹
Fish mint: 鱼腥草

I also do paid Google searches

Thank you, blu. Now everyone else with the same question will be able to find it here.

I think around here the fish mint is more commonly called 折耳根.

boiling the whole chicken (especially tu ji: picked from the bone and shredded by hand after boiling) instead of just the breast also adds some interesting flavors and textures, and you get the added bonus of a nice chicken soup.

Thank you, you just saved my life, I had no idea how to survive back in Europe without this dish :D

I've tried this recipe now, and I can definitely vouch for it. The taste was very savory and nice; I used the fish mint but not the sawtooth herb. However, it wasn't nearly as ultra-über-mega-spicy as I'm used to from the Dai restaurants in Kunming, and I'll have to experiment a bit so I can achieve that.

Thank you! I will try this tomorrow.....
Susan H


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