I love hanging out at boba tea cafes. In fact, I would say I probably am at some sort of bubble tea place at least twice a week. (In my defense, I'm in approaching my mid-semester exams, and these places always have pretty reliable WIFI!) Anyway, my friends always buy popcorn chicken with whatever tea they end up ordering, and when I was looking at them, I realized that they would actually be really easy to recreate with vegan chicken pieces.
You should be able to find some sort of seitan-based chicken in the vegetarian section of your supermarket. Just make sure you're buying seitan chicken that hasn't been breaded yet because you're going to be using your own special batter to get that Taiwanese snack shop flavor into the dish. (Beyond Meat or Gardein both make really nice chicken strips.)
Vegan Taiwanese Popcorn "Chicken"
(Makes 2 cups)
2 cups thawed vegetarian chicken pieces, cut into bite-sized chunks
To Make the Marinade:
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp five spice powder (This is a powder blend found at Chinese markets next to white pepper bottles.)
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp shaoxing cooking wine
1/2 tsp white pepper powder
1/8 tsp black pepper powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp sugar
For the Batter:
Handful of fresh Thai basil leaves
1 cup corn starch
1/4 cup soy milk
1 tbsp five spice powder for dusting
Oil for deep-frying
1) In a medium bowl, combine the 'chicken' pieces and marinade ingredients, making sure to completely coat. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour.
2) Pour oil at least one inch deep into pot or wok being used for frying and turn to medium high heat. In a small bowl, pour in soy milk. In a separate small bowl, pour in cornstarch. When oil is heated, coat pieces in soy milk, then in cornstarch, and then place into hot oil. Let the pieces fry on both sides until batter becomes a medium brown (about 3 - 4 minutes). You can fry a few pieces at a time. When they're done, remove and place on a plate lined with paper towel to drain excess oil.
3) After you have finished with all of the chicken, drop in fresh basil leaves. The leaves cook quite fast, so you only need to fry them for a few seconds. Be careful as they might make a popping sound. Sprinkle basil on top of chicken. Sprinkle an additional 1 tbsp of five spice powder on top, and toss to make sure all pieces are coated with powder and mixed with basil. If you feel more seasoning is necessary, sprinkle a little more five spice powder. Serve immediately while chicken is still crispy.