Cooking: Kung Pao Chicken

I had a craving for something spicy, and since I had the ingredients, I made kungpao chicken. This dish is curiously far more popular outside of china, than it is within china. It originates from the Szechuan region which loves dried chilis and Szechuan pepper corns. The original version has just chicken, peanuts, aromatics (scallions & garlic), spices and seasonings, while the north american version of the dish adds more vegetables. The version I’m preparing here is more north american.

you’ll need

  • 1 cup cubed boneless chicken
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup diced green/yellow/red peppers
  • 1/4 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup raw peanuts
  • 4-5 dried chilies (more if you like lots of spicy heat)
  • 1/4 tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns, or 1/2 tsp of whole Szechuan peppercorns
  • fist full of fresh spinach (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp light soy
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cooking oil
  • 1 tbs cooking wine (Shaoxing Wine)
  • 1tsp tapioca starch (or corn starch)
  • 1/2 tsp light soy
  • 1/2 tsp dark soy
  • 1/2 tsp black vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp honey (optional)
  • cooking oil (ideally one with a high smoke point, like peanut oil or canola oil)

method:

dice the onions, peppers, celery, and garlic and set aside

prepare the sauce by combining the soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, cooking, honey (the ingredients from the main list in green) and set aside. I didn’t have any suitable dried chilis on hand, so I added sambal oelek (chili sauce) into the sauce.

prepare the marinade by combining soy, sugar, cooking oil, cooking wine, tapioca starch (the ingredients from the main list in red) in a small mixing bowl.

dice the chicken into bite sized pieces, and add to the diced chicken to the marinade, mix and set aside

prepare the peanuts by heating up about 1/4 cup of cooking oil in a small sauce pan

shallow fry the raw peanuts over medium heat until they start to brown, then set aside to drain on a paper towel (to absorb the excess oil). They will become crunchier as they cool.

While you can use roasted/blanched peanuts (and skip the frying), but I find they lose their crunch once tossed in the stir fry sauce. The absorb the liquids and become soggy. The fried peanuts maintain their crunch when stir fried.

since I have whole peppercorns, I need to grind them down

I only want a little of the szechuan peppercorns, so I cut it down to considerably. If you prefer the numbing effect of these peppercorns, use the full amount, or add even more.

if you adding a bed of spinach, blanch the spinach over high heat. Set aside, and squeeze out any excess water once it cools.

stir fry the diced vegetables over high heat, first by adding it to the dry hot wok and adding a couple of tablespoons of water. The instant steam will blanch the diced vegetables in about 15-20 seconds. Then stir fry with oil, over high heat, and season with salt and pepper. The diced veg should only take about 20-30 seconds, just enough to get a little char on the edges. Set aside.

stir fry the chicken over high heat, add the dried chilis and stir fry over high heat until the chicken is almost all cooked through (no pink visible).

add the ground szechuan peppercorn to the stir fry sauce

then add the sauce to the chicken. Toss the already cooked dice vegetables back in the wok, turn off the heat, and stir fry on the residual heat for about 30 seconds.

serve with rice

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