Kung Pao Chicken



Chinese food is one of my favorite cuisines and with the limited to no Vietnamese food in the NYC area, and the Vegetarian’s slight dislike of Chinese food, Thai (or Mexican) is the standard delivery choice on non-cooking nights.

I’ve often tried making different Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai dishes at home, sometimes with great success, other times, not so much. Kung Pao, while one of the more Americanized dishes, is one of my favorites. Sadly, few places really serve a good version. I often have tried coating meats in corn starch, only to find that the starch clumps up and ends up being pretty terrible. In this recipe, you mix corn starch with several other ingredients to form a marinade, as well as using some in the sauce to thicken later on. I don’t know why I never thought of this before, but this dish should make it into regular rotation.

I have been wanting to purchase a Chinese cookbook and after reading this great blog post on One Perfect Bite for “Kung pao-ish chicken,” I decided not only to make that dish, but to buy Nancie McDermott’s book Quick & Easy Chinese: 70 Everyday Recipes (which is partly what the post was based on). While I can’t officially review that book yet (review in upcoming post), this dish was a sure fire winner, and really easy to make.

Makes 4 servings (or 2 servings with lots of left overs)
Based on Recipe from One Perfect Bite

For the chicken (can be done up to a day ahead of time):

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry or Shaoxing rice wine (cheap and lasts a long time)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

For the Sauce (make just prior to cooking)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry or Shaoxing rice wine
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or Chenkiang vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt

For the Chicken:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
~1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I used closer to 1.5 t)
~1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and crushed (I used about 1 t)
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger (small 1″ knob)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped green onion
1/2 cup cup roasted, salted peanuts
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil


Cut chicken into 1″ chunks. In a medium bowl, whisk together marinade ingredients: soy sauce, shoaxing wine (or sherry), cornstarch, and vegetable oil. Add chicken and mix to coat. Set aside for about an hour on counter in cool space, or covered in refrigerator overnight.

In a small bowl, combine sauce ingredients: soy sauce, Shoaxing wine (or sherry), vinegar, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.

Heat a wok, or large skillet over medium high heat for about 2-3 minutes. Add vegetable oil and swirl to coat the pan, heat an additional 2 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and sichuan peppers. Stir and cook about 1 minute.

Add chicken and cook in single layer for 1-2 minutes without stirring. Add garlic, ginger, scallions, mix well to combined, and cook 2 more minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Add sauce to wok. Cook and stir, or toss, for 1 minute longer. Add peanuts and sesame oil and mix again. Serve immediately with white rice, noodles, veggies or on its lonesome. Enjoy!

About Evan Halperin

I like to eat. I like to cook. I like to eat what I cook. Now, I will share with you what I like to cook. My wife and I may be a vegetarian and a carnivore, but it doesn’t mean we can’t cook a nice meal with both, without compromising taste. I will share my creative meals of the Carnivore and the Vegetarian.
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