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Aug 4, 2010 09:31 AM

Search for an "authentic" Gong bao ji ding recipe

I've been searching and searching for an "authentic" gong bao ji ding recipe and can't find the secret ingredients. By "authentic" I mean "the kind that I ate while living in Beijing that has a sweet, slightly sticky red colored sauce". I even took a cooking lesson in Beijing from a Chinese cook trained in Sichuan and have used Fuschia Dunlop's gong bao recipe. I'm sure both are "authentic" , but how do I cook the one that I ate in the restaurants of Beijing??? What are the ingredients that are missing?

Here is the recipe I have used:

This recipe makes a delicious dish, but with a BROWN sauce, and not sticky.

Please help!

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  1. I have never seen 宮爆鷄丁 with sauce, much less one with a "sweet slightly sticky red colored sauce."

    Usually, there is just enough "sauce" or gravy/marinade to coat the chicken.

    Anyhow, if you're hell-bent on reproducing a "sweet slightly sticky red colored sauce" try combining some pineapple juice, ketchup (or tomato paste), vinegar and a cornstarch slurry. Add this to your pan just before you are finished cooking the 宮爆鷄丁 and simmer for a bit to allow the sauce to thicken. Voila, 宮爆鷄丁with sticky red colored sauce.

    And, for what it's worth, just because some restaurant in Beijing had it doesn't make it ipso facto "authentic". Many restaurants in Beijing cater to tourists and tourists' tastes, or the tastes of ex-pats who have lived abroad for many many years.

    Anyhow, good luck.

    14 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Actually it seems like most restaurants in Beijing serve the "sweet sticky red sauce" gong bao, whether it's a hole-in-the-wall restaurant where locals eat or a tourist restaurant. Anyways, thanks for the suggestion.

      1. re: maocookie

        But understand something, 宮保雞丁 is a Sichuan dish, not a Beijing (or Northern Chinese) dish.

        The traditional 宮保雞丁recipe relies primariy on Sichuan peppercorns and chili peppers.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Source for this origin being ascribed to the dish? Why would a dish with Gong bao (princess) in the name originate in Sichuan, where to my knowledge there was never a palace.

          1. re: buttertart

            A couple sources claim the dish is named after a dude. I think he would be very piss that you call him a princess, ya know? :)

            Well, a governor from Sichuan. Here is a source in English:

            here is a source in Chinese:

            Interestingly, the very original dish may not be spicy at all.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Hmm. So the "ding" is from Ding Baozhen? JOKING of course I know it's not.
              I was under the impression that a gong bao was a particular type of princess or female courtier. This from the resident Chinese historian.

              1. re: buttertart

                So you are saying that "Gong Bao 宮保" means Princess or Courtier, right? I love classical Chinese. That is a good question. I have to look it up. I will report when I get something on that.

                1. re: buttertart

                  Hey Buttertart,

                  Ok, I just looked up my old Chinese dictionary. Unfortunately, I cannot provide the link because it is in a paper dictionary. I am too lazy to type in Chinese, so here they are:

                  宮人 means female courtier
                  宮女 means female courtier
                  宮保 (Gong Bao) means 太子少保

                  Hey, I just find a link to Baidu. Here is the definition of 宮保:



                  Please stop calling him a princess. I think you own him an apology.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Just to be a smart a**, Shu Han dynasty was in Sichuan, so there would be palace there.


              2. re: buttertart

                I've always understood, and thought it was generally acceptd, that this was a Sichuan dish.

                Maybe I'm wrong and this is a big swirling controversy amongst Chinese culinary experts, but I think the links provided by Chem (up above) sort of dispels that notion.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I think people can dispute the origin of the dish, but I just don't want people call him a princess. He is not a girly-man.


                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    You're right and I'm wrong, from Baidu it's obviously a post-1860 honorific title (for a male), and could have been given to someone from Sichuan as easily as someone from Beijing.

            2. re: maocookie

              I have seen it with sweet thin red sauce, but it may not be what you called authnetic.

            3. re: ipsedixit

              Hey, that's the sweet and sour sauce my mother used to make in the 1960's (at the time, she may have been the only non-Asian in Buffalo to use Bok Choy). Was it Lee's Chinese Cookbook, or something like that? I still make it occasionally, but from memory.

              1. re: sbp

                That's how we used to make it at our family's Chinese fast-food restaurant way back in the day. We also added chunks of pineapple and some bell peppers to give it a bit of color and contrast.

            4. Have you considered using a red bean paste? I find that it is often an ingredient in any dish that may have a sauce as you describe.


              1 Reply
              1. re: violabratsche

                hmm do you mean something like dou ban jiang?

              2. Here are a couple photos I found online.
                This website shows a pic of the brown one and a pic of the red one, but only gives the recipe for the brown one.


                1. Here is a very authentic recipe in the Sichuan style. I am not sure how the Beijing style would differ other than being sweeter and less spicy.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: chefj

                    Chow must have the best SEOs on earth. I was looking for a good gong bau ji ding recipe in the Szechuan style, complete with the peppercorns and I got directed to this three-year-old thread. At any rate, that was a very nice recipe and I thank you for citing it.

                    1. re: nokitchen

                      It really helps to know what you are looking for! Cheers

                  2. Maocookie, I know what you are talking about. The cheap diner I eat at all the time has a red-sauced gongbao ji ding with diced chicken breast, cucumbers, carrot, and peanuts. It's pretty sweet and not-really-spicy, with no Sichuan peppercorns. It's much-loved by Beijingers (and by me) but I think if you served it to someone from Sichuan they would take one taste and throw it in the trash. A good analogy is a Texan ordering BBQ brisket in Minnesota; it's authentically American but if he is expecting slow-smoked beef is he gonna be disappointed. I will see if I can sneak a look in the kitchen next time I go.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: RealMenJulienne

                      OK I was able to sweet talk my way back to the kitchen after ordering my gong bao ji ding. I'll just describe exactly how they do it and you can make adjustments to your home kitchen.

                      Cooking oil
                      Chicken, 1/2" dice, tossed with cornstarch - 1 cup
                      Small cucumber, 1/2" dice - 1 cup
                      Carrot, small dice - 1/2 cup
                      Roasted peanuts with skins - 1/4 cup.
                      Dried red chile, to taste
                      Soy sauce - 2 tbsp
                      Black vinegar - 1 tbsp
                      Cornstarch slurry - 2 tbsp
                      Sugar - 1 tbsp
                      Dou ban jiang - 3 tbsp

                      The cook has a hellishly hot gas burner, a seasoned wok, and a big bowl of oil on the side. He swirls about two cups of oil into the wok, lets it get hot, and then in goes cucumber, carrot, and chicken to deep-fry for less than a minute. He removes the food, and pours most of the oil back into the bowl (euuggh). Then he builds the red sauce: soy sauce, black vinegar, sugar, and dou ban jiang. Remember it's not like he's measuring this out with a teaspoon; he is using a ladle to, uh, ladle this stuff into the wok so I may be wrong about the measurements. Fry that for 30 more seconds, then the vegetables, chicken, red chile, peanuts, and cornstarch slurry go in for the last 30 seconds. Add a drizzle more cooking oil, and immediately pour the whole thing over rice. Serves one.

                      1. re: RealMenJulienne

                        THANK YOU SOOO MUCH! I'm going to try this asap and I'll post how it turns out!

                        1. re: RealMenJulienne

                          Ok, so this post is a couple of months old know, but has anyone tried the recipe by RealMenJulienne??

                          I know exactly what maocookie was talking about. Outside of China I have never seen a Gongbao Jiding dish with this slightly sweet, red, sticky sauce (which makes it so incredible!!). Yes it's a Sichuan dish but I've had it in different parts of China and liked it best in Beijing because it's not as spicy as the one in Sichuan.