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Quick and easy Kung Pao Chicken with dried chilies, Szechuan peppercorns, and roasted peanuts. Delicious with a bowl of steamed rice.
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 seafood 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.
Chicken Recipes Using Szechuan Peppercorns
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 was inspired by the one they brought over.
There are many variations of Kung Pao Chicken. The Westernized versions 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 pepper which gives a slight tingly sensation when bitten into. Whole or ground Szechuan peppercorns can be easily purchased at Asian grocery stores here. You have to give it a try.
Similar Tools Used in Making This Kung Pao Chicken
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Stainless 14-Inch Stir-Fry Pan with Helper Handle and Glass Cover
Asian Kitchen Carbon Steel Wok Stir Fry Pan, 12-inch
Classic Series Carbon Steel Wok, 14-inch
Stainless Steel Professional Wok Turner Spatula
- 8 to 10 dried red chilies
- 20 oz skinless boneless chicken breast (sliced into quarter inch thick slices) (560g)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 inch ginger (peeled and thinly sliced) (30g)
- 1 medium onion (peeled and cut into wedges)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- ½ tsp ground Szechuan pepper
- 1/3 cup dry roasted peanuts (50g)
- 3 green onions (cut into 2 inch lengths)
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 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 ground pepper for 20 minutes.
- Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
- Heat up wok or large fry pan.
- Once wok is heated, add vegetable oil followed by ginger, onion, minced garlic, and dried chilies. Fry until ingredients are fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Add ground Szechuan pepper 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.