When it comes to Sichuan cuisine, Kung Pao Chicken, sometimes also known as Kung Po and Gong Bao Ji Ding, is undoubtedly an indispensable part. This dish and The Happy Family, to some extent, are the representative of Chinese food in the West’s mind’s eye. If you love this spicy stir-fry dish so much and would like to have a try at home, you are definitely interested in how to cook it the most authentic way. Actually it is what this article is all about.
What is Kung Pao Chicken?
As one of the most prestigious specialties in Sichuan food, it is characterized by silky smooth diced chicken with crisp finish and mild to medium-hot in flavor although its bright red seems a bit scary. Thanks for that, long before this dish was introduced to the West, where it was westernised and gradually became more prevalent.
This dish was allegedly created by Ding Baozhen, the Governor of Sichuan in Qing dynasty. It is said that he ever accidentally fell into the water when he was still young and rescued by people who lived by the river. Later he was in government service and recalled this experience. Then he paid a visit and said thanks to that family. The host entertained him with a really tasty dish, which is the one later called as the Kung Pao Chicken. And thanks to his efforts on promotion, this dish enjoys tremendous popularity in the world now.
Kung Pao Chicken recipe
Here we would like to provide you with the authentic practice that is typically served in Chinese restaurants. However, you can also tweak to make it appeal to a Western palate. For example, you can replace cashews with peanuts, or simply add in water chestnuts or bamboo shoots to give a better mouthfeel.
1) 400g chicken thigh meat;
2) 100g chopped peanuts;
3) 750g sesame oil;
4) 10g Liaojiu (yellow wine);
5) 2g salt;
6) 5g sugar;
7) 1g monosodium glutamate;
8) 2g vinegar;
9) 30 Doubanjiang (thick broad-bean sauce);
10) 5g mashed garlic;
11) 0.5g dry chili;
12) 5g green onions;
13) 5g ginger;
14) 2 eggs;
15) 20g cornstarch;
16) 2g soy sauce;
17) 0.1 Sichuan peppercorns
1) Prepare chicken thigh meat and cut into dices;
2) Wash the diced meat, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and rice wine, and then mix them thoroughly with hand;
3) Put in a little bit of starch and blend them well with hand;
4) Set aside and marinate the chicken for a while;
5) Pour cold oil in a hot pan;
6) Put in diced chicken, stir fry for a while, and set it aside;
7) Pour chili oil or salad oil in the pan;
8) Add Sichuan peppercorns and chili and cook them with low heat;
9) Add onions, ginger, and garlic and stir for a while;
10) Once again put in diced chicken;
11) Add Liaojiu and soy sauce for coloring;
12) Add a little bit chicken broth if desired;
13) Add a little salt, chicken powder, sugar, and vinegar;
14) Dress with starchy sauce and add the fried peanuts;
15) Add Sichuan peppercorns and sesame oil;
16) It’s ready to serve you.
Tips on how to make it authentic
When it comes to hot and spicy food, Sichuan cuisine is certainly one that impresses a lot of you. However, spicy taste does make Sichuan food what it is since it is also found in foods from Mexico, South Korea, India, and so on. What is the unique feature of Sichuan cuisine? Of course it lies in its distinctive numbing flavor that comes from Sichuan pepper, which is the soul of Sichuan food and this unique style won’t developed without the help of this pepper, so to speak. Then again, Chinese chefs can still make popular Kung Pao Chicken without Sichuan pepper, but one thing is for certain: something is definitely missing in this dish. So, remember to choose Sichuan pepper, if possible.
The main ingredient is the key factor in cooking a successful dish. Unfortunately, 90% of this dish served in restaurants chooses the wrong one – chicken breasts. To tell you the truth, the right choice should be chicken thigh, rather than breast. This is because the thigh tastes much crispier, smoother, and tenderer. What’s more, the thigh skin gets a large share in giving a buttery texture. So, don’t make it skinless, or it will lose part of its charm.
As for the marination, Shaoxing Jiafanjiu, literally Shaoxing traditional rice-adding wine, is the best seasoning if you are picky enough since it does a better job on adding flavor, let alone getting rid of the undesired smell. Of course, you can choose other wine that you have easy access to. However, if you want an authentic flavor, choose Jiafanjiu by all means. By the way, it is inexpensive.
On July 6, 2014, Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, was invited to visit Chengdu, where she made a special trip to a farmer market in order to buy ingredients for learning how to cook authentic Kung Pao Chicken. So, would you give it a try at home too?