I have soon many food weaknesses in life, but one of my big ones is definitely french fries. They are so hard for me to resist so I never make them at home. I knew I had to make an exception though when I fell in love with the spicy fried potatoes in Xi’an.
In local restaurants or street food stalls around the city, you’ll find fragrant, hot woks with tiny potatoes sizzling in a thick layer of oil and spices. Some versions use small potatoes while others use chopped potatoes or even something that I think resembled mashed potatoes, battered and fried.
Oh dear god these potatoes are good.
Once the potatoes are fried to perfection, they are tossed in a hot combo of garlic, salt, sugar, chilis, chili powder, paprika, cumin, and spring onion. They are downright addicting.
I didn’t manage to find the tiny perfect potatoes that I saw on the streets of Xi’an so I opted for small new potatoes and chopped them in to somewhat evenly sized quarters. Once they’re chopped, soak the potatoes in a bowl of cold, salted water for 15-20 minutes or more. This is key to getting crisp fried potatoes.
To fry, I cooked the potatoes in hot oil, uncovered and without stirring for 2-3 minutes, I then gave the potatoes a quick, careful stir/flip before putting the lid on for another 1.5-2 minutes. I continued this process of cooking, flipping, and covering until the potatoes were cooked through but crispy. Cooking with the pan covered often makes potatoes too soft, which I didn’t want, but I also wanted to avoid cooking them in oil for too long (to reduce some of the guilt).
Once your potatoes are cooked, move them to a plate lined with a paper towel and pour out most of the oil from your pan. Toss in your garlic and a generous amount of spices and cook just briefly until the garlic is golden and the spices are fragrant. Then add the potatoes back in, make sure they are well coated in the spice mixture and sprinkle on some green onion before serving.
Xi’an Spicy Fried Potatoes
- 7-10 new potatoes, cut into quarters
- large bowl of cold water with salt
- oil, for frying
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cayenne powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp cumin
- green onion, thinly sliced
- Place potatoes in large bowl of water with salt and allow to soak for 15-20 minutes
- Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat
- Dry potatoes well and add to pan
- Fry for 2-3 minutes with minimal stirring, uncovered
- Quickly stir potatoes and cover pan
- Cook for 1-2 minutes
- Uncover pan and continue frying for 2-3 minutes
- Repeat covering and uncovering cooking process until potatoes are crispy and cooked through
- Turn off heat
- Remove potatoes from oil and set aside on a plate covered with a paper towel
- Drain most of the oil except for a small amount
- Heat pan with remaining oil over medium heat
- Add garlic and stir, cooking until garlic is fragrant
- Add potatoes back to pan and spoon spices evenly over potatoes
- Stir potatoes and cook until well coated for 2-3 minutes
- Remove from heat and top with green onion
Play with the amount of spices you use but be generous!