Kung Pao chicken is something I always order when we eat at Chinese restaurants. One of my favourite versions is the one served at Mr Wong in Sydney. This recipe is very similar in taste to the one we order at Mr Wong’s – it’s quite spicy, as it should be, with the addition of some numbing heat courtesy of Sichuan peppercorns. Lots of bang for your buck in this recipe which is fairly easy to pull together, even on a weeknight. The one ingredient that you will need to go to the Asian grocer for is the chilli bean paste. It really is worth the effort of seeking out this condiment and having a jar of it in your fridge as it’s essential to many Sichuan dishes and the flavour it imparts can’t be easily replicated with anything else.
Ingredients Serves 4
650g chicken breasts
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
3 teaspoons Chinese cooking wine
1 egg white
2 tablespoons cornflour
Vegetable oil or peanut oil
2 tablespoons Sichuan Dou Ban Jiang/ chilli bean sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon black vinegar – you can substitute balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
A handful of red dried chilies, cut into short pieces
1/2 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns finely diced, or roughly ground in a mortar and pestle
1 tablespoon diced garlic
1 teaspoon diced ginger
3 tabelspoons brown sugar
1/2 cup water with 2 teaspoons corn flour mixed in
4 spring onions cut into 1 inch lengths
1/2 cup of roasted peanuts
Cut the chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes. Marinade it with the salt, onion powder and Chinese cooking wine. Then coat the chicken with 2 tablespoons of corn flour and the egg white. Keep mixing it until it gets to a creamy and velvety texture. Set it aside for 20 minutes. This method is called velveting in Chinese cuisine and makes the chicken very tender.
Heat your wok over a high flame and add a generous amount of oil. Give it a toss so the oil covers the bottom. Wait for it to get very hot then add the chicken. Spread the meat so most pieces are touching the bottom of the wok. Do not stir and flip the meat, wait and let one side of the meat sear before stirring the chicken to cook and brown the other sides. Once the chicken is cooked and you’ve got some nice brown colour remove it from the wok and set aside.
Drizzle in a little more oil and add the chilli bean paste. Stir this on low heat for a couple of minutes. When you see all the oil becomes a red-orange colour, add the garlic, ginger, diced Sichuan peppercorn, red dried chilies and brown sugar. Stir until the sugar melts then add the chicken back into the wok. Add the soy sauce, vinegars and dark soy sauce. Pour in the corn flour water and stir immediately. When the sauce thickens, throw in the toasted peanuts and the spring onions. Toss everything together. Taste it to adjust the flavour, checking to see if it needs more vinegar or sugar. Give it a final stir and serve straight away.