Kung Pao Chicken - sometimes called Gong Boa - is a really simple stir fry recipe that's full of rich umami flavours spiked with the holy trinity of Chinese ingredients - chilli, ginger and garlic - seasoned with mouth-tingling Sichuan pepper and soy sauce. It's a classic for good reason - dark, sticky, sweet and sour and really tasty, quick and easy to make.
The key to a good Kung Pao lies in the amount of chilli you use and the Sichuan pepper which seems to have a dumbing down effect on the chilli. You could use scary amounts of chilli that would normally make a dish way too hot to be enjoyable, but the addition of the Sichuan pepper, somehow tames the heat and they work brilliantly in tandem. In this recipe I've just dried arbol chillies which are bright red and provide just the right amount of kick.
You will see some recipes that leave the Sichuan peppercorns whole, this gives you intense bursts of flavour when you come across one every so often. My preference is to grind the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar to get the flavour to distribute more evenly.
You'll need a few other Chinese larder staples, Shaoxing rice wine is pretty important as is Chinkiang vinegar, a black rice vinegar with wonderful complex flavours.
The basic premise of this dish is to marinade your chicken for 15-20 minutes in soy, Shaoxing rice wine with a little potato flour to thicken. Meanwhile, mix together a separate sauce which you will add in to the stir fry towards the end. Toast the peanuts, slice and chop the chilies, garlic, ginger and spring onions and you're ready to start.
I serve this dish with some fairly plain white rice, I quite like stir-frying Japanese short grain or sushi type rice with some bok choy or spinach leaves. You can also add ginger or 3 or 4 finely diced shiitake mushrooms that have been soaked for 20 minutes in boiling water. Just remember that when stir-frying any rice, it's best to use cooked rice that's been chilled first or better still, day old rice from the fridge. If you stir-fry just cooked, hot rice you'll always end up with a sticky mess.
Unless you have a massive wok, it's always hard to make a stir-fry for more than 4 people, you end up 'stir-steaming' everything, rather than frying. So best to limit the numbers - or cook in batches - when making this dish.
1. Start by dicing up the chicken, then sprinkle with the potato flour, mix through the chicken to create an even coating, then add in the soy sauce and Shaoxing rice wine. Set to one side for 20-30 minutes.
2. Toast the peanuts under the grill. Keep an eye on them as they can burn quite easily.
3. In a bowl, mix up the sauce ingredients and keep to one side.
4. Peel and chop the ginger, garlic and spring onions.
5. Remove the stalks and seeds from the dried chillies and slice them thinly.
6. Heat your wok, add the Sichuan peppercorns and toast for 10-15 seconds, making sure you don't burn them. Remove them to a pestle and mortar and grind. You don't need to create a powder, just a coarse grind is fine.
7. With the wok back on the heat, add the rapeseed oil and heat. Stir-fry the dried chillies for a few seconds, add in the Sichuan peppercorns that have been ground, a fry for a few more seconds. Then add the diced chicken and stir-fry.
8. Once the chicken has just begun to brown, add in the garlic, ginger and spring onions and keep cooking. The pan will be smelling amazing at this point.
9. Once the chicken is almost cooked, give your sauce a stir and add that to the wok. Keep cooking until the sauce has thickened then add the peanuts, stir them through and serve with rice.
Enjoy! And foodies don't forget to leave a review here on our blog if you cook this at home. If you're an instagram user we'd really appreciate a tag too! @somerset.foodie - many thanks! Ben
Have you tried this recipe yet? Tell us about it...
Comments will be approved before showing up.
Also in Ben's inspiring recipes and simple 'how to cook' videos...
Black pepper beef is one of those enduring dishes that's on every Chinese takeaway menu. This dish is super easy and really quick to bring together at home with just a few ingredients. Beef and black pepper are bold flavours and the combination will make your mouth water and your taste buds tingle.
Fried chicken is one of the true joys in life, it's heralded in many parts of the world and done differently wherever you go. The Japanese version is known as Chicken Karaage and it's absolutely delicious, particularly when dunked in some rich Kewpie mayonnaise, spiked with Japanese seven spice. I've served my Karaage with a simple slaw that I dressed with a really great sweet miso and sesame dressing and some plain rice.
If you've ever thought vegetarian food is slightly dull, hold on to your hats... this simple one-pot dish based on the humble chickpea absolutely packs in the flavour. The soft creamy chickpeas are cooked in a richly flavoured tomato sauce with a good splash of Fino sherry, dried chilli and smoked paprika. The dish is finished with roasted peppers, creamy aioli made with olive oil, a scattering of fresh parsley and a chunk of grilled sourdough.