Classic Kung Pao Chicken

This became a very popular dish in Chinese-American restaurants in the 1970s, when menus began to expand to include many more authentic and traditional examples of Chinese cuisine. It continues to be a great favourite.

It is a classic Sichuan dish that has gone through many mutations. From my research, its first appearance in the US was in New York, and subsequently it spread to menus throughout the country. Today there is hardly a Chinese restaurant in America that does not offer the dish. Unfortunately, many restaurants began to Americanize the dish into something I don’t think anyone from Sichuan, China, would recognize. Try this version, the closest recipe to the original.

Ingredients

  • 450 g (1 lb) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 480 ml (16 fl oz) groundnut oil, or 480 ml (16 fl oz) water (see variation) and tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 2 dried red chillies, split lengthways
  • 40 g ( oz) shelled raw peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon finely sliced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped spring onions
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese Chicken Stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese black rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons water

Method

Cut the chicken into 2.5 cm (1 in) cubes. Mix the chicken thoroughly with the egg white, salt, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and the cornflour.

Heat a wok until it is hot and then add the oil. When the oil is very hot, remove the wok from the heat and immediately add the chicken pieces, stirring vigorously to keep them from sticking. As soon as the chicken pieces turn white, in about 2 minutes, quickly drain them in a stainless steel colander set in a bowl. Discard all but tablespoons of oil.

Reheat the wok with the reserved oil. (If you used the water method, swirl in tablespoons of fresh oil.) When the wok is very hot, toss in the chillies and stir-fry for a few seconds, until they blacken slightly. Toss in the peanuts, garlic, spring onions and ginger and stir-fry for 1 minute, until they are lightly browned. Add the cooked chicken pieces, the stock, rice wine, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, salt and 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, then stir in the cornflour mixture. Continue to stir-fry for 2 minutes. Serve at once with rice.

Variation

If you choose to use water instead of oil, bring it to the boil in a saucepan. Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately add the chicken pieces, stirring vigorously to keep them from sticking. When the chicken pieces turn white, in about 2 minutes, quickly drain them in a stainless steel colander set in a bowl.

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