Monday, August 21, 2006
kung pao chicken
There are so many variations of this spicy, salty, sweet yet sour dish. I've tasted about as many good versions as bad versions. According to my Wei-Chuan cookbook, Kung Pao chicken originated in the Szechwan region of China, where the use of chili peppers is apparent in many dishes. Traditionally, the main ingredients are chicken, peanuts, and chili peppers. Chicken is first cooked quickly in a fragrant oil which has been infused with aromatic ingredients such as the chili peppers, then mixed briefly with a sugary, vinegary, salty sauce. Peanuts are tossed in at the last minute before plating, and served with plenty of rice to complement the complex flavors of this dish. Modern day restaurants often throw in other ingredients such as bell peppers, carrots, mushrooms, or bamboo. Although the taste might be good, I'm still a purist when it comes to this dish, and I prefer mine without the addition of any extra vegetables (If I wanted my veggies benefits, I'd make another dish!). The worst version of Kung Pao Chicken came from this fast food Chinese restaurant that served it with peppers, baby corn, water chestnuts, canned bamboo, mushrooms, and carrots in an overly salty brown sauce with about 2 peanuts thrown in. Maybe they wanted to be cheap and stretch the cost of the peanuts? Anyway, the recipe below is from my Wei-Chuan cookbook, although I did not measure the ingredients, rather eyeballed everything, tasting my spatula and adjusting as necessary. My new bag of chili peppers were not as spicy as my old bag, so next time I'll use more of it since I like a spicier dish.
Kung Pao Chicken
Adapted from Wei-Chuan's Chinese Rice and Noodles
2/3 lb (300g) boneless chicken
2/3 Tbsp each of soy sauce and wine
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
Aromatics to infuse oil
12 pieces dried chili peppers
1 tsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp minced green onion (white sections)
2 Tbsp each of water and soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp each of vinegar and cornstarch
1/2 tsp sesame oil
4 Tbsp roasted peanuts
1/2 cup chopped green onions (green section)
1. Cut chicken in cubes and pour in the marinade.
2. Heat wok to very hot, add 1 Tbsp or so oil to stir fry aromatics. Add chicken and stir fry until cooked. Add in the sauce until thickened. Mix in the garnish and pour on plate.