Kung Pao Chicken
This is a recipe I jotted down on the back of a napkin (literally) after having interrogated a very patient Chinese friend in Beijing called Henry Daye, who makes a smashing version of this at home. And that’s the good news: this is home food, which means it’s quick and easy. Kung Pao Chicken originates from the Sichuan Province in southwestern China and is usually quite spicy (Sichuan pepper is that amazing hot and cold, anaesthetic pepper flavour) and very aromatic. If you’re not a fan of this kind of heat, replace with fresh or dried chillies. As always with authentic Chinese recipes, you’ll find the ratio of meat to other ingredients is lower than we might expect in Europe. This is how it should be: a little bit goes a long way.
- for the meat marinade:
- 2 free-range chicken thighs, skinned, boned and cut into very small strips
- 2 tbsp tbsp cornflour
- 1 tbsp water
- for the Kung Pao:
- 4 tbsp sunflower oil
- 50g unsalted peanuts (without skins is preferable)
- 6 spring onions, sliced on the bias in 1cm lengths (including the green bit)
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and very finely minced
- 2cm fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp water
- 2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, ground to a powder in a mortar and pestle
- a little fresh coriander, to garnish (optional)
Toss the tiny strips of chicken in the cornflour. When completely coated, add the water and mix with your fingers to make sure that the chicken is evenly covered with the paste.
Heat a wok to smoking point over a very high heat then add the oil. First, fry off the peanuts until just starting to colour. Remove them promptly from the pan with a slotted spoon (they will catch quickly) and set aside.
Next, add the marinated chicken and fry for a minute until cooked through and starting to colour. Quickly add the onions, garlic and ginger and toss again. Fry for another minute, until the onions have started to wilt a little.
Finally add the vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, water and ground peppercorns. When the sauce has become sticky and glossy, return the peanuts to the pan and taste to check seasoning.
Serve straight away with a little chopped coriander and a bowl of steamed rice.