Sunday, June 20, 2010

Gong Bao ("Kung Pao") Chicken (宮保雞丁)

It's chicken breast time again.

This time, due to the fortuitous event of having peanuts around, we decided to turn to Fuschia Dunlop and go with her version of Gong Bao chicken from Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking.

I started with cutting up the chicken breast pieces.

When TS saw what I had done, she tsk-ed tsk-ed me and decided to re-do my pieces. She said my pieces were too big! Okay, well, I was just trying to do it as quickly as I could.

I told her to take over then. :)

I'm sure everybody knows about this tactic by now: if you want to get out of doing things, just act incompetent -- and this is the key thing -- admit to the incompetence! Someone will take over for you.

As per the recipe, I marinated the chicken cubes in a mixture of light soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, cornstarch and a touch of water. You know, the usual suspects.

Sichuan peppercorns (foreground) and dried chiles (background).

Just a quick prep of the ingredients: ginger, garlic and green onions. I even had to make my green onion pieces the same size as my chicken cubes!

I also mixed the sauce ingredients together: light and dark soy sauces, Chinkiang vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, cornstarch and just a touch of water.

Oh, we pan-roasted some peanuts as well. Mustn't forget the peanuts. Without them, what would the point! ;)

The dish came together very quickly after the initial prep.

Cook the Sichuan pepper and chiles in hot oil, then add marinaded chicken.

Add the ginger, garlic and green onions. Toss, toss, toss.

Add the sauce and roast peanuts, and it's done.

I think I like my Gong Bao chicken to be a tad more spicy but this has a nice balance of hot, salty, sour. Of course I loved the fried peanuts in this, although I concede that cashews might perhaps add a touch more sweetness to the flavour balance.

(No to cashews! Peanut-love all the way!)

eatingclub Sichuan/Sichuan-inspired (Szechuan)
Red Chile Oil (紅油)
Sichuan Peppercorn Chili Oil
Spicy Sweet Sichuan Popcorn
Gong Bao ("Kung Pao") Chicken (宮保雞丁)
Eggplant Dandan Mian (擔擔麵)
Sichuan "Crossed Hands" Wonton Dumplings 抄手, Two Ways (in Broth and with Chili Oil Sauce)
Sichuan Ma Po Tofu (麻婆豆腐)
Water Boil Fish (水煮魚) or Water Boil Beef (水煮牛肉)

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Gong Bao (Kung Pao) Chicken with Peanuts (宮保雞丁)
from Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking

Serves 2 as a main dish with a simple stir-fried vegetable and rice, 4 as part of a Chinese meal with three other dishes

2 boneless chicken breasts, with or without skin (about 2/3 pound total)
3 cloves of garlic and an equivalent amount of ginger
5 scallions, white parts only
2 tablespoons peanut oil
a generous handful of dried red chiles (at least 20), preferably Sichuanese
1 teaspoon whole Sichuan pepper
2/3 cup roasted unsalted peanuts

For the marinade
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine or medium-dry sherry
1 1/2 teaspoons potato flour or 2 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

For the sauce
3 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon potato flour or 1 1/8 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
3 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar or black Chinese vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon chicken stock or water

1. Cut the chicken as evenly as possible into 1/2-inch strips and then cut those into small cubes. Place in a small bowl and mix in the marinade ingredients.

2. Peel and thinly slice the garlic and ginger, and chop the scallions into chunks as long as their diameter (to match the chicken cubes). Snip the chiles in half or into 2-inch sections. Wearing rubber gloves, discard as many seeds as possible.

3. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl -- if you dip your finger in, you can taste the sweet-sour base of the gong bao flavor.

4. Season the wok, then add 2 tablespoons of oil and heat over a high flame. When the oil is hot but not yet smoking, add the chiles and Sichuan pepper and stir-fry briefly until they are crisp and the oil is spicy and fragrant. Take care not to burn the spices (you can remove the wok from the heat if necessary to prevent overheating).

5. Quickly add the chicken and fry over a high flame, stirring constantly. As soon as the chicken cubes have separated, add the ginger, garlic, and scallions and continue to stir-fry for a few minutes until they are fragrant and the meat is cooked through (test one of the larger pieces to make sure).

6. Give the sauce a stir and add it to the wok, continuing to stir and toss. As soon as the sauce has become thick and shiny, add the peanuts, stir them in, and serve.


  1. Once again, yet another great post! I'd go with the cashews though ;)

  2. One of my fave dishes with rice! your version is beautiful. I tried this dish at Beijing and they use ma la (I think) coz my tongue feels numb after... and I tried a version with macademia nuts, very yum!

  3. I agree with noobcook; your version with all the peppers, peanuts and those glistening colors are making me hungry all over again. This is the best Chinese I know!

  4. I love kung pao chicken but not how it makes me feel like I've just swam in a vat of oil after eating. This is the perfect solution!

  5. this dish looks fantastic and love the use of sichuan peppercorns and peanuts

  6. You make the breast meat look so tender and moist and very tantalizing! Make sure there is enough rice to go around....most of us like this dish with rice :)

  7. Rice Palette:
    Haha, all right (re cashews). ;P

    We used some Sichuan peppercorn here too... JS actually wants even more "numbing" action!

    As I always like to say, making people hungry is our job. ;)

    Make your own... it's probably going to be better. =D

    Ravenous Couple:

    We didn't mention the rice because it's a given, lol. ;) But, yes, one MUST eat this with rice!

  8. She doesn't say to deep-fry the chicken pieces? I like the crunchy outer layer drenched in sauce. :P

  9. Wandering Chopsticks:
    I actually have never seen kung pao chicken with crunchy chicken pieces!


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