Sunday, January 23, 2011

The world famous Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao chicken (宫保鸡丁) is one of the most known traditional Chinese dishes in US.   It is a classic dish in Sichuan cuisine.  The name "Kung Pao" is allegedly derived from the name of the person that created the dish.

Kung Pao chicken
Serves 5-8 
Prep time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins

- 1.5 lb skinless and boneless chicken breast meat
- 1 lb raw peanuts
- 2 scallions, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 slices of ginger

- Light soy sauce or all purpose soy sauce
- Shaoxing cooking wine
- 4 tbsp of Sichuan Doubanjiang (chili bean paste) 豆瓣酱
- 1 tbsp corn starch
- 1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorn (花椒)

1) Prepare the chicken
- Cut the chicken breast into 1/2 inch thick slices
- Use the back of your knife to gently pound the chicken. This helps break down the meat and make it tender.
- Dice the chicken into 1/3 inch cubes
- Marinate the chicken with 1 tbsp cooking wine, 1tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp canola oil and 1 tbsp corn starch. Mix well and marinate for 10 mins.

2) Fry peanuts
- In a large skillet, pour the canola oil (or vegetable oil) to about 1/4 inch deep.
- Make sure the peanuts are dry. Add in the peanuts and start cooking on medium heat. 
- For about 8 minutes, the peanuts will turn golden. Turn off the heat. Place the peanuts on a large plate and cool them off at room temperature.
- When completely cooled off, the peanuts will be crunchy and nutty. If at that time you still think it need to be cooked more, you can roast them in the oven at 400F for a couple more minutes.
- Rather under cook than over cook the peanuts.

3) Make peppercorn oil
(This step is not required. You could simply leave the peppercorns in. However most people are not used to the numbing feeling when accidentally having one of those little peppercorns. I usually prepare the oil beforehand and take out the peppercorns.)
- 5 tbsp of canola oil
- Add 1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorn and cook on high heat
- Stir occasionally for about 2 mins
- Turn off the heat before the peppercorns turn dark. Strain out the peppercorns and reserve the oil for cooking.

4) Making Kung Pao chicken
- In a large skillet or wok, heat up the peppercorn oil with garlic, ginger and scallion. Add in chili bean paste. Stir fry for 30 secs.
- Add the marinated chicken.  Stir fry on high heat and break apart the chicken (because of the corn starch, the chicken dices stick together).
- After about 2 mins, add in 1 tbsp of cooking wine. Continue cooking on high heat for 5 mins. Add 1 tbsp of soy sauce, cook on medium heat for another 5 mins or until chicken is cooked.
- Add in the fried peanuts. Stir fry on high heat for 2 mins.  

Tips: Sichuan bean paste and peppercorn can be found in Chinatown grocery stores. 

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