Kung Pao Chicken is a popular Chinese stir-fried dish with chicken cubes, dried chili pepper and deep-fried peanuts. The tender taste of the chicken matches great with the crispy peanuts with a combined sweet, sour and spicy taste. The aroma brought out by the combination of chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorn is so fragrant and permeates throughout the entire dish. It is no doubt that the Kung Pao series is considered one of the most prevalent styles of Sichuan cuisine. Other variations include Kung Pao Shrimp, Kung Pao Tofu & Kung Pao Cauliflower to name a few.
The name Kung Pao comes from a court official Ding Baozhen in Qing dynasty – an avid foodie and lover of stir-fried chicken. During his reign as Governor in the Sichuan province, he frequently treated his guests to this dish, adding dried chili peppers since Sichuan natives love spicy food. Later on, he was granted the title “Taizi Shaobao” also known as “Kung Pao”, which means “the protector of the crown price”. They named this dish in memory of him.
Chefs typically use chicken thighs for this dish, like the chef in the video, as it’s meat is more tender than that of chicken breasts. A wok is pertinent to this dish as it is in all Chinese cooking. The deep belly and high sides ensures even cooking and high heat retention causes the use of less oil. The initial seasoning process with the cornstarch, egg white, salt and oil adds base flavor and also creates a coating for the chicken to keep to tender during cooking. The sichuan peppers are removed because biting into one is not pleasant, therefore toasting them in the oil ensures that the entire dish still picks up those flavors. The Kung Pao sauce thickens from the use of a cornstarch slurry also known as an equal mix of cornstarch and water (i.e. 2 tbs cornstarch-2 tbs water). The chili oil is a great addition for not only flavor but that gorgeous red color.
Have a look at the recipe below:
Kung Pao Chicken Recipe
1 Chicken Thigh (de-boned)
Red Chili Peppers
For the Sauce:
Cornstarch Slurry (equal parts cornstarch & water)
1. CAREFULLY de-bone chicken thigh and cut into 1 inch cubes. Season with salt, egg white, cornstarch and a drizzle of cooking oil.
2. PREPARE kung pao sauce in a small bowl by combining soy sauce, vinegar, chicken broth, sugar & cornstarch slurry. Mix well and set aside.
3. HEAT wok over high heat and add cooking oil. Toast sichuan peppers until golden and then remove from wok.
4. ADD chili peppers and chicken and begin sautéing over high heat. Add cooking wine and keep sautéing. Add fresh chopped garlic, ginger & scallion; keep sautéing.
5. ADD kung pao sauce and continue to saute until reduced and it coats the chicken pieces.
6. FINISH with chili oil and peanuts.