Whenever sitting down to eat in any restaurant in China, the wait staff would usually turn the menu pages to the kung pao chicken picture knowing that I, an American living in Beijing, would insist on ordering the dish. I would say that this dish along with dumplings both have a reputation of being favorites amongst the laowai, or foreigners, in China.
Sad to say, that ever since leaving the Mainland, it’s been difficult to satiate my craving for a good and authentic Kung pao chicken. So, after researching and experimenting with recipes, I’ve found this one to most authentic to what you can find in China (minus the MSG). Typically, one eats around the Szechuan peppers and chilies, which are left in the dish leaving diners to pick out the chicken with their chopsticks. However, in this recipe, I’ve infused them into the oil before removing them, allowing for the diner to go all in on that stir fry without fear of crunching into a Szechuan peppercorn and subsequently numbing their tongue. Feel free to dice the chicken up into smaller pieces but I prefer a good chunk to bite into, hence the 2cm pieces.
2-3 Chinese leeks or large scallions (white parts only, diced 1 cm thick)
½ cup roasted peanuts
3-12 dried red chilies (cut in half)
3-little to no heat
12- testing the boundaries of heat
12+ - sadistically spicy
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
2 tbsp garlic (sliced)
2 tbsp ginger (finely diced)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp cornstarch mixed in 3 tbsp water
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp cooking wine or white wine
1 tbsp cornstarch
Mix diced chicken in salt, pepper, soy sauce, wine and cornstarch and let marinate for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, sugar and vinegar and set aside.
On high heat, add about 2 tbsp of oil to a large wok.
Add chicken and cook, stirring the chicken constantly until it is no longer pink. This should take about 2-3 minutes (depending on heat of wok).
Remove chicken with slotted spoon from wok and set aside.
Add more oil (if needed) and cook dried chilies and Szechuan peppercorns on medium high heat in wok for about a minute or two until the mixture has infused into the oil, being careful not to burn the chilies. You'll know when the chillies have infused when the oil picks up a reddish color and the red chillies begin to turn a darker color.
With a slotted spoon or using a sieve, separate the chilies and peppercorns from the oil and discard. Add ginger and sliced garlic to the infused chili oil in the wok and cook on high heat for a minute or so.
Add leeks, stir and cook for another minute or so.
Return chicken to the mixture, stir and cook for about a minute.
Add the peanuts to the mix. Stir.
Add sauce and mix, allowing sauce mixture to coat everything.
Finally add cornstarch and water solution to wok and cook for a minute or so until sauce has thickened.