Meaning of Chinese culinary term "pon pon" (as in "Pon Pon Chicken")

My all-time favorite chicken recipe is Pon Pon Chicken, and I see references online to Pon Pon Shrimp and Pon Pon Pork. I took the chicken recipe from The Chinese Cookbook by Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee (1972). They explain the meaning of some recipe names but not this one. I always assumed “pon pon” meant “sesame,” but I see now that is ma zhi. Becuase it calls for Sichuan peppercorns, I presume it’s a Sichuan (Szechwan) recipe.

In case it helps to answer the question, the recipe is made with chicken, sesame paste, sesame oil, hot oil, soy sauce, vinegar, scallions, brewed tea, sugar, Sichuan peppercorns, and garlic.

I see two versions of it- a cold dish with thin noodles and cucumbers (which seems plausibly authentic to me) and a sweetish sticky fried dish that probably isn’t really a Sichuan dish, although it bears a resemblance to authentic sweet and sour pork (糖醋里脊). Sichuan dishes generally do not have a lot of sweet tastes (Sichuanese endlessly mock south eastern cuisine for being so sweet), are often over-the-top spicy with piles of hot red peppers being the norm, and the few chicken dishes are usually bone-in and much heavier on veggies than meat. Sesame seeds exist in Sichuan cooking, but don’t play too large of a role. Anyway, unless you really like kung pao chicken, it’s not a great chicken place. Maybe something like this exists somewhere, but it’s not an everyday Sichuan dish.

After some looking, I found it on a menu as “棒棒鸡,” which translates literally as “Stick stick chicken” and transliterates as “bang bang” chicken. It seems to be very popular in Utah. I’m not familiar enough with the enormity of Chinese cuisine to say for sure, but I’d venture it’s a regional Chinese-American dish, probably drawn from authentic sweet and sour pork mixed with America’s affinity for chicken and habit of equating “sesame” with “Chinese food.”

It appears to come from Chengdu, in Sichuan province.

Apparently, it also goes by the name of “strange flavor chicken” (怪味雞絲, guai wei ji si). Damn, I’ve never had this dish, but I’m getting hungry. Maybe lunch tomorrow…

Is that stick as in a piece of wood, or stick as in sticky ?

Stick as in rod. When I hear the word 棒 I think of a rod like a martial arts staff.

Okay, makes sense. Strange-flavor chicken is pretty common.

With the name “strange flavor” I’m wondering if perhaps this is a western invention which has returned to the homeland?

Does one find chop suey anywhere in China and if so, what do they call it?

More info for the OP:

I can’t find anything definitive, but so far as I can find, under both names (“bang bang chicken” and its variants and “strange flavor chicken”), it seems to have originated in Sichuan.

ETA: About “strange/exotic flavor”. So, yeah, it seems “strange/exotic flavor/taste” is definitively a Sichuan signature.

Thanks, folks.

The Claiborne/Lee recipe calls for cutting up the poached chicken with a knife rather than beating it with a cudgel, so it’s sort of a misnomer.

For the record, it’s not like a normal sweet-and-sour dish. My recipe calls for only 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 teaspoons of sugar to one whole chicken.

Well, sure, but it’s not unusual for a traditional dish to keep the name of an old manner of cooking/preparation even though a different manner may be employed. I doubt it’s normally prepared with cudgels in Sichuan, too. I mean, if you want to be pedantic, culinary misnomers abound. For the most simplistic example, how much of food called “barbecue” is actually barbecued?