Kung pao chicken is a traditional Recipe in Chinese cuisine. It is a simple dish, whose main ingredients are chicken, dried peppers, and crunchy peanuts. It has a history of more than a hundred years and is attributed to the figure of the governor of Sichuan during the Qing dynasty, not to mention Sichuan has become a home to the best spicy food.
Although several Chinese dishes are popular, Kung Pao Chicken is among the dishes that are loved by many. These are stir-fried chicken cubes that come with dried chili peppers. Over time, the dish was brought over to the US and then re-invented for the local flavors and tastes.
What is the Ingredient and the Taste ?
Boneless chicken chunks, chili peppers as well as peanuts are known to be the main parts of the kung pao chicken. To give it a nice zing, soy sauce is used to add the required salinity. The smooth and glossy texture of this dish is given by corn starch, although, kung pao chicken is always served with white rice.
It is worth mentioning that there are three main versions of kung pao chicken which include the Sichuan version, the Guizhou version, and the western version. You will find the Americanized version to be a little sweet and savory having a little spicy kick. The Sichuan version is a little bit spicier than the other versions. A round and nutty flavor is given to the dish because of the peanuts. The Guizhou version is typical with very similar ingredients except they use Ciba chili paste 贵州糍粑辣椒(a chili paste from the Guizhou province of China) to fragrance the wok first in the chicken stir fry process.
There are many western versions that move away from and complicate the original kung pao chicken recipe. But the important thing for the dish to be tasty is to sauté the chicken well in its marinade, make sure the sauce is light and add the peanuts at the end to give it the characteristic crunchy touch of the recipe. Stay with me, here I am going to show you how to make Kung Pao chicken at home.
In this recipe, I have used one of the most traditional and widely used sauces in Chinese cuisine: hoisin sauce. This will give it the exquisite sweet and sour touch that we associate so much with Asian cuisine. Kung pao chicken comes with a complex combination of texture and flavor. To get the best, the chicken must be juicy and tender, pepper and Sichuan peppercorns are dry while peanuts are raw and crispy after being roasted.
How to make Kung Pao Chicken
Lets’ cut the chicken into small cubes. Prepare the chicken to marinate in the bowl for 30 minutes.
Meantime add one tablespoon of cooking oil into the pan, add raw peanuts and cook for 2 minutes on medium-high heat. Turn off the heat as soon as the peanut starts to change color. Transfer the peanuts to the bowl and set them aside, sprinkle a couple of drops of hard liquor over the peanuts, I use 白酒 (Chinese hard liquor). You can substitute whiskey if you don’t have Chinese hard liquor on hand. Or you can simply use Chinese Shaoxing cooking wine. By adding it, the roasted peanuts will stay crispy longer, also it won’t become saggy. This is the trick taught by my dad when I was little 😊. It works wonders!
In the same wok, add Sichuan peppercorns, dry whole chilies, green onion, ginger, and garlic until fragrant. Add chicken to the wok and cook chicken until lightly browned, then remove it from the wok.
Add Kung Pao sauce over the chicken and stir well. Simmer for a few minutes. Then Fold in pre-cooked green and red pepper for the final touch.
Kung Pao Chicken is surely a must-try dish for any individual who prefers spicy and bold flavors. The dish has become quite popular in America and is served in every Chinese restaurant. You will find a little difference in spices and peppers in every restaurant’s Kung Pao Chicken, but by eating it, you will surely get a truly authentic Sichuan experience.
Kung Pao Chicken
To marinate the chicken:
Kung Pao sauce:
For the stir fry:
- 4 tablespoons cooking oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 slices ginger minced
- 5 whole dry chilies
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 4 green onions cut into one-inch pieces
- 1 green bell pepper cubed
- 1 red bell pepper cubed
Roast the peanuts:
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1.5 cups raw shelled raw peanuts or less depending on your taste, I prefer to add more peanuts, so I can snack on them later 😊
- Prepare the chicken to marinate in the bowl. Place the chicken in a bowl with oil, cornstarch, Shaoxing cooking wine, soy sauce, salt, and pepper, and leave it to marinate for 30 minutes.
- Meantime add one tablespoon of cooking oil into the pan, add raw peanuts and cook for 2 minutes on medium-high heat. Turn off the heat as soon as the peanut starts to change color Transfer the peanuts to the bowl and set them aside, sprinkle a couple of drops of hard liquid over the peanuts. (see “Tips” under the recipe)
- Pour 2 tablespoons of cooking oil into the wok and cook the red and green pepper for about 5 minutes, remember to stir frequently until the pepper turn slightly softened. Then transfer the red and green pepper to a bowl and set aside.
- In the same wok, add cooking oil and place it over medium-high heat, add Sichuan peppercorns, dry whole chilies, green onion, ginger, and garlic until fragrant. Add chicken to the wok and cook chicken until lightly browned, then remove it from the wok.
- Add Kung Pao sauce over the chicken and stir well. Simmer for a few minutes.
- Fold in the green and red pepper for the final touch. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the sauce clears and thickens.
- Garnish the roasted peanuts on the top of the dish.
- Serve with steamed white rice. Enjoy!