Kung Pao Chicken is one of the most famous Chinese dishes in the West, featuring in almost every ‘Chinese’ restaurant in America. The story of Kung Pao goes back to the early nineteenth century, and the dish has since spread all over the world. While in the past, we have introduced a quick-and-easy way to cook up Kung Pao Chicken with a microwave; really doing justice to this tangy dish, takes a little more time and effort. What better than to learn directly from a Chinese cooking show?
For its anniversary, FOODragon has kindly translated a clip from their Chinese cooking show 我家厨房, and added subtitles. Here’s a list of ingredients, as listed by FOODragon, with their Chinese names added by yours truly. The key to making Kung Pao Chicken, the show’s host says, is to offset the sweet and sour flavors of the the sauce with the chicken; this produces an almost lychee-like flavour (小荔枝口).
- 250-300 grams of boneless chicken meat (鸡腿肉) – in the clip they use the thigh part of the leg but I recommend the breast as it’s easier to dice. The pieces should cut to about 2 cm in size .
- Half a cup of peanuts (熟花生) (about 100 grams) – the peanuts should be peeled and fried before you stir-fry them with the chicken. You can buy fresh peanuts and fry then yourself until they turn golden, or buy pre-cooked ones. If they are already salted, don’t forget to use less salt in the sauce.
- Scallion (葱) – it can be the thin green onion or the thicker leek. You can slice it or chop it, it’s up to you. About 10-15 cm of white stem should do the trick.
- Garlic (蒜) – two three cloves. Chopped is best but sliced is fine too.
- Ginger (姜) – Not used in this clip, but it is a part of the holy trinity and therefore an essential part of the mix. Slice a ginger chunk, the size of a bottle cap, to fingernail size slices.
- Two or three dried red chili peppers (辣椒). More if you are feeling brave
- Sichuan peppercorns (花椒) – since they are not supposed to be eaten, many people remove them from the oil once their unique mala flavor has been infused into the oil.
- Chili bean paste (豆瓣酱) – a spoon to a spoon and a half, depending on on how spicy and red you want it to be.
- When you marinate the chicken:
- Chinese cooking wine (料酒) – half a ladle
- Salt and pepper (盐, 胡椒粉) – 1 teaspoon each
- Sugar (糖) – half a tea spoon
- Oil (油)– half a ladle
- Starch (淀粉) – a whole spoonful
For the sauce mix in a bowl:
- Chinese cooking wine (料酒) -1/2 a ladle
- Soy sauce (酱油) – 1/3 a ladle
- Vinegar (醋) – 3/4 a ladle
- Sugar (糖) – 4 tea spoons
- Salt (盐) – not necessary because the chili bean paste is already salty. If you don’t use the paste or like your food salty then use 1 tea spoon.
- Black pepper (黑胡椒) – 1 tea spoon
- Starch (淀粉) – 2 spoonfuls or about half a ladle
- Water – a small cup
- Sesame oil and baijiu (香油, 白酒) – not a must but about a spoon each.
- MSG (味精)– very common in China but not recommended anywhere else. Feel free to leave this one out.
Image courtesy of FOODragon.com.