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Jan 15, 2008 10:28 AM

Anyone have a good tried and true recipe for kung pao chicken?

Anyone have a good tried and true recipe for kung pao chicken?
Have tried a few, none of them were very tasty.

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    1. re: King of Northern Blvd

      I second this version by Fuchsia Dunlop.

      It is probably the best I've ever had. Wonderfully well balanced flavors, plus the numbing kick of Sichuan Peppercorns. I roast and grind the husks (minus seeds) into a powder (and only use 1/4 teaspoon), so you don't accidentally eat one of these numbing 'peppercorns'. I like it with green and sweet red peppers instead of scallions. The recipe is also in her book 'Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking'.

      You probably will have to visit an Asian market for ALL of the ingredients: [dark soy sauce, light (not lite) soy sauce, Chinkiang (or black Chinese) vinegar, Shaoxing rice wine, Sichuan peppercorns, toasted sesame oil (I like Kadoya)], if you want it to be as authentic as possible. Fuchsia Dunlop recommends specific brands. You don't want to use La Choy or other cheap brands and it was actually cheaper using top quality brands from the Asian market than lesser brands locally. I think it's worth the extra effort, if you want to make it better than you probably can get it locally. You may want to photocopy some of the items (with Chinese characters), so you can show a market employee, if you can't find it yourself.

      You can also get Sichuan (or Szechuan) peppercorns at Penzey's Spices or Adriana's Caravan.

    2. I like this one from Cook's, but I double or triple the ginger-garlic, add more spice, and increase some of the other flavorings.

      Kung Pao Chicken


      While we prefer this dish made with chicken thighs rather than breasts because the dark meat has richer flavor and is less prone to drying out, if you prefer, you can replace the thighs with chicken breasts. You can substitute plain rice vinegar for the black rice vinegar (available in Asian markets), but we prefer the latter for its fruity, salty complexity. If you prefer roasted unsalted cashews over peanuts, substitute an equal amount. Do not eat the whole chiles in the finished dish.

      Serves 4

      1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs , trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch pieces
      1 tablespoon dry sherry or rice wine
      2 teaspoons soy sauce
      3 medium cloves garlic , pressed through garlic press or minced (about 1 tablespoon)
      1/2 inch piece fresh ginger , peeled and minced (about 2 teaspoons)
      3 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
      1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
      6 small whole dried red chiles (each about 1 3/4 to 2 inches long), 3 chiles roughly crumbled, or 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
      3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
      2 teaspoons black rice vinegar or plain rice vinegar
      2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
      1 tablespoon oyster sauce
      1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
      1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
      1 medium red bell pepper , cut into 1/2-inch dice
      3 medium scallions , sliced thin

      1. Toss chicken with sherry and soy sauce in medium bowl; marinate until thighs have absorbed flavors, about 10 minutes. Mix garlic, ginger, and 1 tablespoon oil in small bowl; set aside. Combine peanuts and chiles in small bowl; set aside. Mix chicken broth, vinegar, sesame oil, oyster-flavored sauce, hoisin sauce, and cornstarch in small bowl or measuring cup; set aside.

      2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over high heat until just beginning to smoke. Add chicken and cook without stirring for 2 minutes, allowing chicken to brown on one side; stir and cook 1 1/2 to 2 minutes more, until no longer pink; stir peanuts and chiles into chicken and continue cooking until peanuts have darkened slightly, 30 to 40 seconds longer. Transfer chicken, peanuts, and chiles to bowl; set aside.

      3. Return skillet to burner and reheat briefly, 15 to 30 seconds. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, swirl to coat pan, and add red bell pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 45 seconds. Clear center of pan, add garlic-ginger mixture, mash into pan with spoon or spatula, and cook until fragrant, 10 to 15 seconds; stir into peppers until combined. Stir broth mixture to recombine, then add to skillet along with reserved chicken, peanuts, and chiles; cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits on bottom of pan, until sauce has thickened to syrupy consistency, about 45 seconds. Stir in scallions and serve.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cocktailhour

        We like this one, too - and I haven't found black vinegar (we don't have an asian market nearby) so I used cider vinegar, because it's what I had on hand.

      2. Hugh Carpenter has a great book, maybe out of print, called Pacific Flavors, which has recipes for many classic sauced Asian dishes. Until I got that book (thanks Mom) my attempts were very muddled . Now they taste right.

        1 Reply
        1. re: toodie jane

          Martin Yan's CulinaryJourney Through China has my favorite

        2. This sounds very complicated, but is actually very easy. The key is lots of garlic, hot sauce and ginger. Adjust the heat to your taste with adding more hot sauce, crushed red pepper and/or fresh chilis. Once you have done it a few times, it can be prepared in about 1/2 hour.

          Kung Pao Chicken

          This sounds complicated but is not if you take it in steps.

          Step 1 Prepare sauce
          ¼ cup soy sauce
          ¼ cup chicken stock/broth ( if using a boxed broth, keep the rest to use later in the recipe)
          1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
          2 tablespoons sugar
          2 tablespoons sesame oil
          1 teaspoon Sriracha (Chinese read pepper sauce called sambal oeleck)
          A dash of red pepper flakes
          1 garlic clove crushed and minced (I use a garlic press)
          ½ tablespoon minced fresh ginger.

          Mix all ingredients and set aside – I do this in a glass measuring cup.

          Step 2 Marinade Chicken:
          4 boneless/skinless chicken breast halves cut into 1-inch cubes.
          1 egg white
          1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
          1 tablespoon cornstarch.
          1 garlic clove crushed
          1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
          A dash of Sriracha or red pepper flakes

          Mix egg white, cooking wine, cornstarch and seasonings. Add chicken pieces, stir to coat, and set aside.

          Step 3 Prep Veggies
          I like to slice the veggies on the diagonal to make the pieces match the size of the chicken. The veggies you choose are up to you. This is just a suggestion:
          1 clove garlic crushed
          2 celery stalks sliced
          1 carrot sliced
          1 long hot pepper sliced or whatever hot peppers you like.
          2 broccoli stalks - tops and stems – cut the tops into 1 inch flower and peel and slice the stalks.
          1 cup snow peas, halved.
          Chicken stock/broth as needed

          Step 4 Prep other ingredients:
          16 Scallions cut into ½ inch lengths
          16 very thin slices ginger root, quartered.

          Other ingredients needed:
          3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil.
          1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts

          Step 5, start cooking the veggies first

          In a large skillet or wok, Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat. Add garlic and stir, add celery, carrot and other veggies . Add a splash of broth so the veggies can steam. Stir-fry for about 10 minutes. Remove veggies to a plate.

          Step 6 Cook Chicken and Finish dish

          Add 2 tablespoon oil to pan. Add Chicken and the marinade, and stir-fry for 3 – 4 minutes, until just cooked through. (do not overcook).. Remove chicken with slotted spoon to the same dish as the veggies.

          Add scallions and ginger slices to the pan/wok and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Add the sauce and heat through. Return the veggies and chicken to the pan/wok and add 1 cup roasted unsalted peanuts. Stir-fry until warmed through and the sauce thickens a bit - about one minute. (If you need more sauce, add more broth.) If you want more heat in the dish, add crushed red pepper flakes or hot sauce. Serve over rice.