Kung Pao Chicken

April 3, 2010 § 12 Comments

Kung Pao Chicken is one of those dishes that I grew up with. It was one of Mom’s rotation dishes. I’ve never quite found a version that I really liked, Mom’s or any one else’s (aunts, uncles, restaurants). But it’s one of the Mister’s favorites and since I’ve been on a Chinese cooking books reading-bing lately, I thought I would try one of the recipes from the Wei Chuan series, this one in particular. I have several of these that has been handed down from my Mom and in all honesty, I haven’t tried many recipes. Probably it’s due to my (lack of) Chinese woking skills. So let’s just say I was iffy on what the outcome would like on the KPC.

I followed the recipe with one variation that may have been the difference from a good dish to a very good dish, I used low-sodium soy sauce. The result was good but could have used more soy sauce flavor. I had the heat level to what we like but it just seemed to be missing that extra depth of salty/savory flavor. It’s also a little light in color than I had hoped.

I chose to use cashews instead of peanuts since that’s what I prefer and the recipe calls for either. I also roasted the cashews rather than deep frying, so the nuts lacked that dark brown color you sometimes see in dishes. I also thought there was too much cornstarch in the recipe and will only use it in the marinade the next time. The thickness of the sauce could be because I only used half the oil that the recipe called for. Overall, not a bad first attempt and I have 4 other recipes to try for comparison and adjust.

If anyone has a cookbook from the Wei Chuan series, most of them state that the recipes are the “basic” information for dishes and that one should “develop the art” of Chinese cooking from trial and error (i.e., adjusting the recipes to personal taste).

Once the stir frying begins, everything comes together very quickly. You won’t have time to measure out ingredients while stir frying  so have everything ready to go. Mise en place is very important here. Sorry, I don’t know what equivalent Chinese phrase is. 

The recipe states 6 servings but that’s using the traditional multi-dish meals. As a single dish meal, this was enough for 2 people.

Ingredients:

2/3 lb chicken meat (I used 2 boneless chicken breasts)
1/2 C cooking oil
3 dried red chili peppers, diced (I used 4)
1 green onion, cut into 10 pieces
1/3 C fried cashews or peanuts (I roasted)

Marinade:
1/2 Tbsp cooking wine
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp cornstarch

Sauce:
1/2 Tbsp cooking wine
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp water
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch (I will leave out next time)
1 1/2 tsp vinegar

Tenderize the chicken lightly with the blunt edge of a cleaver and cut into 1″ cubes. Add marinade and mix thoroughly. Just before stir frying, mix in a tablespoon of oil to help the meat separate when cooking (this really helps).

Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat wok and then add cooking oil, reserving 1 tablespoon for later. Stir fry chicken until cooked through, remove from wok and set aside. Wipe the wok clean (be careful), reheat the wok and add the reserved 1 tablespoon oil. Using low heat, stir fry the chili peppers until fragrant and the chili has darken. Add the cooked chicken, green onions and sauce mixture to the wok. Turn the heat to high and stir fry for about a minute. Add cashews and mix. Serve over steamed rice.

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§ 12 Responses to Kung Pao Chicken

  • Dennis says:

    Hi CAB! When I think of kung pao chicken I’m stuck with strange fond memories of a tasty one when visiting a friend who went to Chapman College.. It was a little octagonal shack with a window and the KPC was wok’d to order and very sticky schmaltz-y. Was awesome with rice. The egg rolls had cheese and marinara in it! 🙂

    • CAB says:

      Hey SawyerDennis! (oops, don’t know where my head was on that one) I bet it had great flavor. Unfortunately, this one could of had more depth. But I’ll work on it. Hmm, cheese egg rolls. I see that in the same class as the cream cheese fried wontons from Pick-up Stix.

  • Dennis says:

    If you can call lip smack chicken fat “depth” this had a lot of it, haha. Gosh I wonder if the place is still there..

    • CAB says:

      Hey Dennis (ah, got it right that time, sheesh!)! I think chicken fat could add depth. Maybe my dish was lacking some fat…hmmm, interesting…hehe

  • Amy B. says:

    Chicken fat although maybe unhealthy, does really improve taste in any chicken dish! 🙂 I love the cashew part by the way, thanks for this. good job!

    • CAB says:

      Hi Amy and thanks for stopping by! So true about chicken fat. I’ve made Chopped Liver with and without fat and what a difference in taste!

  • Faye says:

    Oh that recipe looks yummy and easy! What would you estimate was the total prep and cook time?

    I always associate KPC as something i’d order from Panda Express or something. Every time i order it (from anywhere) it’s always sooo sweet (which I’m not a fan of). Is it possible to use less sugar in the sauce recipe? Or eliminate it?

    Wonderful post!

    • CAB says:

      Hi Faye! It was pretty easy. You can totally reduce or even leave out the sugar if you wanted to. This didn’t have that fast-food sweetness to it. I don’t think it would miss it. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll reduce the sugar next time and see if that’s true.

      Not including the time it took to cook the rice, total prep time probably 15 minutes tops. I cut the 2 chicken breasts (a few minutes), then added the marinade and mixed. Marinated for the time it took to prep all the other items together, say maybe another few (5?) minutes. Cook time was about 10 minutes. That would vary depending on how much chicken and how big of pieces they are. I actually like my pieces a little smaller than the 1″ the recipe calls for.

      I used already roasted cashews so I didn’t need to do that. But if using raw cashews, then it should be roasted 15-20 minutes to bring out the nuttiness. This could easily be a 30-minute meal, even with the rice.

  • Harry Marks says:

    This is a bit off-topic, but I was interested that you mentioned the Wei Chuan books. I think I have them all and in spite of having way too many Asian cookbooks – they always seems to be the go-to books for the final solution. Plus they’re the simplest and most successful. An odd aside – I bought a couple in Taiwan, including “Mexican Cuisine” (in the series). Turns out to be one of the best Mexican cookbooks I’ve ever used!

    I’m really enjoying your blog!

    • CAB says:

      Hi Harry and thanks for your kind words! Come to think of it, I do the same thing. I have a few other Chinese cookbooks but I like having the color pictures (even though my dishes never look like them) and I also find the recipes to be the simplest. Interesting about the Mexican cookbook. I wonder if that’s something available in the US. Hmm, maybe I’ll have to ask a relative to see if they can find it for me since you’ve peaked my curiosity! 😉

  • gugelhupf says:

    The Wei Chuan cookbook series is all on Barnes and Noble. In fact, here’s the link for the Mexican one:

    http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Mexican-Cooking-Made-Easy/Diane-Soliz-Martese/e/9780941676298/?itm=1

    I will definitely try out this recipe – hopefully my nonstick skillet will stand in for a wok.

    • CAB says:

      Hi gugelhupf and thanks for stopping by! I didn’t realize all of the Wei Chuan are on B&N! Wow, didn’t know they were so multi-cultural. I have to look into a few of those. Thanks for the heads up!

      I hope you like this recipe and I’ll look for it on your blog!

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