Wow, it’s been a while since my last entry! Belated Happy New Years. Today, I’m going to post another recipe – for relatively easy stir-fry Chinese dish: Kung Pao Chicken.
For many Asian Americans, Kung Pao chicken is an easy item to order at Chinese restaurants as it can’t really go wrong. It is spicy with that tone of garlic/soy sauce shying away from that overly-sweet “fake” Chinese food like General Tso’s chicken that caters more to mainstream American tastes (I mean no offense). But then again, unless you dine at authentic places, say in Chinatown, even this dish can be butchered.
So, in search for authentic Kung Pao chicken, I’ve searched a dozen different recipes and combined my own take to make my rendition.
But before we begin, I’d like to say if you like stir-fry like I do, get the right tools. I looked around and was happy to find thewokshop.com. They’re based in San Francisco and seemed serious about their hand-hammered woks. So I grabbed a 14″ flat-bottom carbon
steel wok along with a bamboo brush for cleaning. I unfortunately have a cook top instead of a gas stove… so flat-bottom it had to be. Otherwise, be sure to get the round-bottom wok (the real deal) as it should distribute heat better. If you use a proper wok, you won’t want to go back to using a frying pan for stir-frys… it just works much quicker, better, & tastier. After cooking, just wipe away under HOT water with bamboo brush and that’s it for cleaning… no detergent no scrubbing because food falls right off! Just a bit of a warning to ladies – a large wok like this with food can be heavy on your wrist. So yeah, check it out if you don’t have one.
1 ½ Chicken Breast
3 Tbsp Roasted Peanuts
8 – 12 Dried Red Chilies, Deseeded and cut into halves
3 Tbsp Cooking Oil
5 Slices Ginger, Peeled
2 Cloves Garlic, Sliced Diagonally
½ bulb Onion, Chopped
1 Stalk Scallion, Chopped
For The Marinade
4 Slices Ginger, Peeled
1 Tbsp Corn Starch
2 tsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Shaoxing Wine
1 tsp Sesame Oil
For The Sauce
1 ½ Tbsp Light Soy Sauce
1 tsp Dark Soy Sauce
1 tsp Sugar
¼ tsp Black Vinegar
2 Tbsp Water
1 tsp Corn Starch
For those who may be unfamiliar with some of the ingredients – the 3 Chinese condiments I also did not know prior to this but it was easy to find in nearby Asian market. Shaoxing wine is a very versatile cooking wine, black vinegar is what you dip your soup dumplings in (healthier/cuts grease), and premium dark soy sauce is what gives that dark coloring to dishes like kungpao. Dried red peppers and peanuts are self-explanatory, but ensure you get the *unsalted* peanuts and peppers that are bright red.
- Cut the chicken meat into small cubes, rinse in water, pat dry with paper towels and marinate with the ingredients above for 1 hour. (I just do overnight)
- Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat up a wok with one tablespoon cooking oil and stir-fry the marinated chicken until they are 70% cooked. Dish out and set aside.
- Clean the wok and add in the remaining 2 tablespoons of cooking oil until it smokes.
- Add in the ginger and garlic slices and do a quick stir before adding in the dried red chilies.
- Stir fry the dried red chilies until aromatic and they smell spicy, (You will need a box of tissues… and invite friends with stuffy sinus.) then add in the chicken meat, then onions.
- Do a quick stir before adding in the roasted peanuts and continue to stir a few times.
- Add in the sauce and stir continuously until the chicken meat is nicely coated with the sauce. This is where your wrist comes in to do couple flips. Fun fun fun.
- Add in the scallions and stir evenly.
- Dish out and serve hot with steamed white rice.
- For the meat, I try to use dark meat and I also add ginger when marinating to get rid of some of the dark meat smell. (chicken breast works but … it’s a bit boring y’know…)
- I always add onions… for me it’s stir-fry 101. Just garlic and scallion is simply too unbalanced for me. Onions are great as they also retain the sauce, so it balances the dryness of chicken (esp. chicken breast) nicely.
- Before eating, take out ginger and red chilies. You do not want to “chew on these.” I am a real fan of that roasted red chili aroma so I occasionally eat a few and this past week, I paid the ultimate price. (-_-;) You know you’re in trouble if the crown of your head starts sweating and you tear involuntarily.
- As for green onion aka scallions… who wants to always buy and cut them each time? It doesn’t help that they go soggy fast in the fridge. So my tip is this – I get a bunch (usually they sell 3 for $1.00) and chop them ring-style to about 1/4″ thick, pat dry excess moisture, put them in a tupperware, and put it in the freezer. When dish is almost ready, I simply put some frozen scallions in and give them few stirs. Within 30 seconds, it’s good to go.
- This recipe is low sugar, but you may crave that “American Chinese” taste. In that case, put a bit of corn syrup or sugar. I put 1/2 Tblsp towards the end.
- Lastly, moderate the chilies – I like the spice so I usually do 8-12 but last time it was a bit too spicy even for me. I think around 6 should be plenty.
The actual cooking time barely takes 15 minutes… prep work is where it takes most of the time. So you could marinate 2 servings, make 3 servings of sauce just in case and have garlic, etc. cut and ready. I do this to save time. Well, there you have it – the awesome Kung Pao chicken! I hope you enjoy and if you have any feedback please feel free to comment.