Kung Pao Chicken
By Kath Dedon
This recipe for Kung Pao Chicken is seriously delicious! I found it on epicurious where it was credited to Diana Kuan (The Chinese Takeout Cookbook). Almost all of the ingredients are easy to find, but I did have to go to our local Chinese grocery store to find the Chinese black vinegar. The recipe says you can substitute “good-quality balsamic vinegar”. I also already had Sichuan pepper which I had ordered from Penzey’s a while ago. (You may see it spelled “Szechuan” peppercorns. It’s the same thing.)
The recipe says it serves four as part of a multicourse meal. As main course served with a bit of rice it really serves three at the most, and two hungry people could easily polish off the whole thing. I added a red bell pepper to include a tasty vegetable that went well with it, served it with rice and a tossed salad. We had just a small serving of the Kung Pao Chicken left.
If your dried red peppers are really hot and you don’t like 5-star heat, use them anyway for their flavor; just pick them out of your serving. That’s what I do. Bob, Mr. 5-star plus, eats his.
The ingredient list for Kung Pao Chicken looks long, but the recipe is very easy to execute. Give this a try the next time you’re hungry for Chinese takeout. It’s sure to satisfy your craving!
Kung Pao Chicken
(Adapted from Diane Kuan’s recipe on epicurious from her The Chinese Takeout Cookbook)
I actually had some Sichuan pepper on hand, which I had ordered from Penzey’s. There’s no real substitute for it. It’s been described as having a slight citrusy or piney flavor. If you don’t have it for the sauce you could try subbing about ¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper.
Serves 2 – 3 (more if part of a multicourse Chinese dinner)
Some of the ingredients for Kung Pao Chicken
Marinade and chicken
1 tablespoon tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry (I used sherry)
1½ teaspoons cornstarch
1¼ pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes (can substitute breasts)
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar, or substitute good-quality balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons honey (or sugar)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper
For the stir fry
2 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
8 to 10 dried red chilies
3 green onions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced or grated fresh ginger
¼ cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
Steamed rice for serving (optional)
- Stir the marinade ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add the chicken and stir to distribute the marinade well. Marinate for 10 minutes.
- Combine all of the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
- Heat a large skillet (or wok) over high heat until a drop of water instantly sizzles.
- Add the oil. Add the chilies and stir fry for about 30 seconds, or until they are starting to blacken. (You may need your exhaust fan on because chilies can smoke over high heat.)
- Add the chicken and cook, stirring, until it is just done and no longer pink in the middle (3-4 minutes). (Cut a larger piece to check.)
- Add the red bell pepper and continue to cook, stirring, for about 1 minute.
- Add the white part of the sliced green onions (reserve the green part), garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds.
- Add the sauce and stir. Add the peanuts and cook for another 1 – 2 minutes. Top with reserved sliced green onions and serve with steamed rice.