Advertisement
Food

What we’re into: The new Sichuan hot chicken tenders at Panda Express are good. Sorry

Panda Express Sichuan hot chicken tenders
The Sichuan hot chicken tenders at Panda Express.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Imagine a giant, fire-breathing Godzilla chicken stomping all over Los Angeles and you’ll get a sense of the impact that hot chicken is having on the city. It’s everywhere, including restaurants, pop-ups, food trucks and roadside stands.

Major fast-food and fast-casual chains have taken notice. KFC recently had a version. And now, Panda Express has released its own take on the dish with Sichuan hot chicken tenders.

According to Panda Express, the Rosemead company’s chefs visited the Chengdu region of China and were inspired by the Sichuan food there. They decided to apply the ma la heat to the current Nashville hot chicken craze, and the Sichuan chicken tenders were born.

They are made with white meat chicken and an orange Sichuan peppercorn oil glaze. If you ask for it extra spicy (the sign on the sneezeguard encourages you to do so) they’ll shake an extra bit of brick-red spice on the chicken.

Advertisement

While the tenders aren’t technically Sichuan food or anything close to Nashville hot chicken, they were right up there with the rest of the hot chicken restaurants in Los Angeles. The chicken was moist, with a crisp crust, and there was the tiniest hint of a numbing sensation from the Sichuan peppercorns. It’s a compression of flavors similar to the Whole Shebang sauce at the Boiling Crab chain, with a kick of paprika and cayenne. And it tasted like there was some sugar in the mix, too.

If you’re looking for some real heat, though, you’ll need to ask for it extra spicy — and then you’ll have to ask for some packets of chile sauce. It’s a heat level that would be considered hot only at the retirement home down the block, even with the extra shake.

Senior food writer Jenn Harris tries the new Sichuan hot chicken tenders at Panda Express

Advertisement


Newsletter
Get our weekly Tasting Notes newsletter
Advertisement