Tuesday, March 29, 2011

American Chinese Takeout Series - Kung Pao Chicken

Will it be too lame to put up a post on Kung Pao Chicken on the blog. After all, this is one of the more famous chicken dish in Chinese takeout places, along with General Gau's Chicken ( Love the good old general!) and Sesame Chicken.

Kung Pao Chicken originates from the Szechuan province, where their use of Szechuan peppercorn coupled with dried red peppers, creates the most fiery tongue numbing effects ever. A sensation so potent that many return for more, addicted to the fiery heat and vinegary tang this dish is famous for. In the States, many takeout places tone down the heat for the benefits of many. Unless you venture into Chinatown and you are Asian, almost always, one will get the diluted version of the dish.

The key to success in preparing this dish is to ensure that the chicken pieces is diced up small. We are talking about the size of 2 peas combined. The cooking of this dish went on really fast and you want to ensure that the chicken is thoroughly cooked. This recipe is, by no means, as hot as how the Szechuan people will like them. However, it still packs a good punch of heat while maintaining the sweetish, sourish flavor that are synonymous with a good Kung Pao dish.

Kung Pao Chicken
2lb chicken breast, diced small (about the size of two peas)
1 inch ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 onion, cut into small chunks
3 stalks of scallions, cut into small section, about 1-inch long
12 dried hot peppers, stem removed
1 Tbsp whole Szechuan peppercorns
1/4 cup unsalted cashew nuts or unsalted peanuts
2-3 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil

Marinade for chicken
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp sesame oil

3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp regular soy sauce
2 Tbsp dark rice vinegar ( you can substitute with white vinegar but the flavor will be slightly different)
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp of water

Step 1: Prepare the ingredients. Marinade the chicken cubes for at least an hour. Combine all the ingredients for sauce and set aside.
Step 2: Heat up a deep pan or a wok over high heat till hot. Add in 2 Tbsp canola oil and the dried hot peppers. Saute the hot peppers till it is dark in color but not burnt.

Step 3: Add in the Szechuan peppercorn. Stir for a minute. You should be able to smell the peppercorn at this point.
Step 4: Add in all the chicken, ginger and garlic. Saute over high heat for 5 minutes, making sure that the chicken pieces is all cooked. Stir rigorously to avoid chicken from burning or sticking to the pan. Add another tablespoon of oil, if necessary.

Step 5: Add in the onion and scallion. Continue cooking for another 3 minutes till onion has softened. Add in sauce mix. Stir rigorously till sauce is thickened and all chicken pieces are well coated with sauce.

Serve over rice.


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