Kung Pao Chicken


kung pao chicken

Stir fry is tough to do in a home kitchen.  My culinary dream is to have a commercial-grade gas range in my kitchen with big-ass BTUs to heat up the wok to restaurant levels.  I don’t cook much Chinese food because I can get it better and cheaply at local restaurants.  Alas, when I was exiled to the desert in Arizona, I did cook it more often because authentic Chinese food was hard to come by (why was every Chinese restaurant in Scottsdale referred to as an “Asian Bistro?”).  The other two secrets to good stir fry are (1) cut meat and vegetables in uniform sizes, and (2) have everything cut up and mixed before you start stir frying.

Contrary to popular belief, Kung Pao Chicken is not Sichuan in origin.  It came from Guizhou, my father’s mountainous province in southwestern China, which is renowned for hot and spicy foods, like its more famous neighboring province.  Guizhou has another great contribution to the culinary world- mao tai liquor.  My father was not Han Chinese, who make up the vast majority of the Chinese population, but a member of the Miao people, one of the many ethnic minorities in China.  See photo of traditional Miao dress.

miaoThe original Kung Pao Chicken has whole dried chiles but I tire of picking them out, missing a couple, biting into one and scorching my mouth, so I substitute Asian chile sauce.  The result is slightly different but I don’t have the guilt of throwing part of the meal out at the end of dinner:

1/2 each large green and red bell peppers, cut into 1″ squares

2 green onions chopped 

1 clove garlic, minced

4 tsp peanut or canola oil

1 pound boneless chicken breast cut into 1″ cubes

1 tsp minced fresh ginger

1/tsp salt

1 egg white

1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

2 tbsp Asian chile sauce or to taste

1 tbsp soy sauce (optional)

squirt of sesame oil

1/2 cup roasted shelled peanuts

Cut up all vegetables.  Dice chicken and mix with ginger, salt, egg white and cornstarch in that order.  Heat up 2 tsp of the peanut or canola oil in a wok or large saute pan till smoking hot.  Add the peppers and green onion and stir fry for about one minute.  Add garlic and stir fry another minute, constantly moving the contents of the pan or the garlic will burn.  Turn vegetables into a serving bowl.  Add 2 more tsp peanut or canola oil and when smoking hot again, add the chicken. Stir fry about 2 minutes or until it loses its pink color and is just barely firm.  Return vegetables to the pan.  Add chili sauce, soy sauce if you want it (I left it out because I’m watching my blood pressure), and sesame oil.  Stir fry just to mix.  Then add peanuts.  Serve over steamed rice.  Sweat.

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One Response to “Kung Pao Chicken”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Think you’ll look good in a Miao costume.

    In Malaysia (and other parts of Asia) we use cashew nuts. I think Pine nuts will be nice too.
    But Kung Pao is not Kung Pao without Dried Chillies, but restaurants cheat by cutting up the dried chillies..into half inch lengths… you end up using less, but much more potent AND harder to spot..and surpised!!!..

    Thanks for history lesson.. I always thought it was Sichuan!

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