This famous spicy chicken dish originated in Sichuan and gained cult status in America. I will always remember the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza is accused of stealing while eating kung pao. His boss thinks he’s lying because he’s sweating so much but George blames it on the spiciness of the dish. ‘George likes his chicken spicy!’ One time, an order came through the restaurant, which read ‘1 kung pao – not spicy’ I laughed and thought it was a joke. I mean seriously, ‘DO YOU EVEN KUNG PAO?’ Order something else!
To marinate the chicken, whisk together in a bowl the soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, stock powder, sugar and sesame oil with a good pinch of salt. Add the chicken and stir to coat the pieces well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok over a high heat. When it reaches smoking point, fry the chicken in batches until caramelised and cooked through. Remove each batch from the wok and put in a bowl.
Add more oil to the pan and fry the garlic and whole dried chillies until fragrant – the chillies should smell roasted. Add the spring onions, peanuts and garlic chives and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Return the cooked chicken to the wok and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir-fry for 1 minute, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce starts to caramelise around the meat. The dish should be really fragrant and smell of Sichuan pepper and roasted chilli. Serve immediately as part of a shared meal, with steamed rice and some greens.
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