Kung Pao Chicken

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If you are used to the Kung Pao Chicken that is normally served in United States Chinese restaurants, you are in for a real treat. this recipe is much closer to the way that they cook it in China, and has a wonderful mix of flavors.

I originally got this recipe from Yan-kit's Classic Chinese Cookbook, which was published while Sichuan peppercorns were banned from being imported to the States. Since the ban has been lifted, I've experimented with adding them back into the Kung Pao Chicken, and found that it gives it a wonderful background heat with a slight citrus undertone.

Preparation Time:
10 minutes prep, 30 minutes marinade, 5 minutes cooking
Tools
  • Wok and wok spatula
  • cutting board and sharp knife
  • bowls for sauce and marinade
  • small cups to hold separate ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of chicken breast or thigh meat cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 4 tablespoons of peanut oil
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns, coursely ground
  • 6 to 12 hot Asian chiles. (If I chop them for more heat, I prefer Thai chiles, if I leave them whole I use Chinese)
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic, cut into strips
  • 6 slices of ginger, cut into strips
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoshing Wine
  • 3 scallions cut into small rounds
  • 2 big handfuls of peanuts

Marinade

  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Shaoshing wine
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten

Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons chile garlic sauce
  • 1 tablespoon thick soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon corn starch
  • 6 tablespoons chicken broth
Cooking Instructions
  1. Put together your marinade by beating your egg in a bowl, then working in all the other marinade ingredients. Pour it over your cubed chicken and mix thoroughly to coat. Put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes
  2. While the marinade is in the fridge, mix together all your sauce ingredients and prep all your other ingredients so they are ready to go when you start cooking.
  3. Heat your wok over high heat. If you are using raw peanuts, toss them in to dry roast for a about a minute. Remove the peanuts and set aside.
  4. Add the Sichuan peppercorns and dry roast for about 20 seconds. Add the oil and swirl it around to coat the sides of the wok.
  5. Add the dried chiles and stir them around till you start to smell them toasting.
  6. Toss in the garlic and ginger, and stir till their smell hits you.
  7. Pour in the chicken and marinade mix. Slide your spatula under the mix and flip it over until all sides of the chicken pieces are lightly cooked, then you can start tossing it. Cook and toss for about a minute
  8. Drizzle the Shaoshing wine around the edge of the wok.
  9. Add the scallions and stir-fry for another 45 seconds. The chicken should be almost done cooking now.
  10. Sir the sauce mix to make sure the cornstarch hasn't settled. Pour it over the chicken in the wok, continue to stir-fry while it boils and thickens
  11. Add the peanuts. Stir and toss for a few seconds to mix it in and coat the peanuts.

Serve it up with rice (I prefer brown Basmati rice with this dish)

Source:
Yan-kit's Classic Chinese Cookbook
Notes
If you don't like things too hot, leave the chiles whole and eat around them. If you are a chilehead, chop them up so the heat is throughout the dish.

Sichwan peppercorns aren't the same thing as black pepper, so don't try and substitute them. If you can't find any, just leave them out. You can use them any size for a fine powder up to unground. I prefer to have the flavor in the background rather than having to chomp them with my teeth, so I go with a course grind.

Some people like this dish with onions or bell peppers mixed in. If this is you, feel free to go for it.