Kung Pao Chicken is a very tasty dish but one I took for granted back when I was still living with my parents. I remember it was very popular during my late teenage years. Although Mom seldom cooked it at home, this dish appeared on the table almost every single time we ate out. Chicken is the primary meat used but the spicy sauce is suitable with seafoods as well as other more “exotic” meats. A popular variant uses frog legs in place of chicken.
This spicy stir-fry originates from the central western province of Sichuan in China and Sichuan (Szechuan) peppercorns are an essential ingredient in the dish. Strangely, this “pepper” was not found in the versions I had eaten back in Malaysia. In fact, Szechuan peppercorns are hardly ever used there. It is something I discovered only when I moved here.
Some years back, a friend from Shanghai brought a roast chicken dish that had a “bite” which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was immediately hooked! My Szechuan Pepper Roast Chicken is based on the one they brought.
There are many variations of Kung Pao Chicken. The Westernized version include a combination of vegetables like carrots, bell pepper, celery, and water chestnuts. Szechuan peppercorn is not an integral ingredient in the dish and oyster sauce is often used as a base for the sauce. Sometimes cashew nuts are used in place of peanuts.
In Malaysia, onions are often used. I have included it here together with ground Szechuan peppercorn which gives a slight tingly sensation when bitten into. Whole or ground Szechuan peppercorns can be easily purchased at the Asian grocery stores here. You have to give it a try.
- 8 to 10 dried red chilies
- 20 oz (560g) boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into quarter inch thick slices
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1-inch knob ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 medium size onion, peeled and cut into wedges
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ tsp ground Szechuan peppercorn
- 1/3 cup (50g) dry roasted peanuts
- 3 green onions, finely sliced
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp Shao Hsing rice wine
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- 1 tbsp black/balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp corn starch
- 2 tbsp water
Break dried chilies into half. Shake off seeds and soak in warm water for 20 minutes. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.
Marinade chicken with rice wine, soy sauce, and pepper for 20 minutes. Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
Heat up wok or large fry pan. Once wok is heated, add canola oil followed by ginger, onion, minced garlic, and dried chilies. Fry until ingredients are fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add Szechuan peppercorn and marinated chicken and fry for another 3 to 4 minutes.
Pour sauce mixture over chicken. Sauce will become thick and bubbly. Stir to get chicken well coated with the sauce.
Finally stir in roasted peanuts, sliced green onions, and sesame oil.
Remove and serve immediately with steamed rice.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!