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.
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)
1/2 Tbsp cooking wine
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp cornstarch
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.