Chicken Thigh War Su Gai

One of the more interesting aspects of American Chinese cuisine is that like the cuisines that shaped influenced it – China’s diverse fabric of techniques, ingredients, and traditions – it has developed its own regional specialties.  New England has its Chop Suey.  The upper Midwest has  – of all things – egg foo young sandwiches.    My hometown of Columbus Ohio has War Su Gai.

Don’t be surprised if it’s not a dish you’ve ever seen on the takeout menu. I really is apparently a local thing – mostly unique to the Columbus and Detroit areas, though I swear I remember my dad ordering it at a place in Sudbury, Ontario. It was one of his favorite dishes.


War Su Gai is a battered fried chicken cutlet (or in some cases chunks of chicken)  topped with a iridescent yellow ginger gravy, sliced scallions,  and fried almonds (or sometimes peanuts)  and served over a bed of shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce.   You can’t swap in fancier greens  -they don’t work The lettuce isn’t just a garnish,, the watery crunch of those lettuces are integral to the dish.

Most places you’ll find it it’s probably served with rice, but I tend to eat it almost as an appetizer – just shoveling mouthfuls of delicious hot from the fryer chicken and sauce and crisp lettuce and crunchy nuts … it’s an amazingly satisfying dish.

Chicken Thigh War Su Gai

Recipe by DrewCourse: Main, AppetizersCuisine: American Chinese, Chinese, American


Prep time


Cooking time




  • Chicken
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs

  • ½ cup corn starch

  • ½ cup AP flour

  • 1 egg

  • aprox ¼ cup cold water

  • ½ tsp garlic powder

  • 1 tsp kosher salt (divided)

  • Shredded Iceberg or Romaine Lettuce

  • ¼ cup chopped blanched almonds, marcona almonds, or roasted peanuts

  • Oil for frying

  • Sliced green onions/scallions for garnish

  • Ginger Gravy
  • 1 ½ cups chicken stock

  • ¼ cup water

  • 1 tbsp corn starch

  • 1 tbsp minced ginger

  • 1 tsp minced garlic

  • 1 tsp lemon juice

  • 1/8 tsp ground turmeric

  • ½ tsp kosher salt


  • Chicken
  • Season the chicken thighs with ½ tsp of kosher salt and set aside while you prepare the batter.
  • Whisk together the corn starch, flour, and remaining ½ tsp salt.
  • Beat the egg well.
  • Whisk the egg, and water into the dry ingredients to form a fairly thin, but smooth batter.
  • Set up your fryer, dutch oven, or a heavy bottomed pan with at least 1 ½ inches of oil.
  • Heat the oil to 325°F.
  • Working in batches, dip each piece of chicken into the batter and carefully lower into the hot oil oil.
  • Fry at ~325°F until well browned and crispy.
  • Serve on a bed of shredded lettuce, topped with ginger gravy, sliced scallions, and chopped nuts.
  • Ginger Gravy
  • In a thick bottomed pan, bring 1 ½ cups of Asian style chicken stock to a simmer.
  • Add the turmeric (this gives it the distinctive yellow color), ginger and garlic and simmer until reduced to a little more than 1 cup.
  • Strain out the solids and return the liquid to the pan and return to a low simmer.
  • Whisk together ¼ cup of water and 1 tbsp corn starch to form a smooth slurry.
  • Whisk the slurry into stock and simmer until thickened.
  • Add lemon juice, and season with salt to taste.

Be sure to check out my other food project, The Weekly Menu!

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