Kung Pao Chicken is surely one of the most popular Chinese dishes in America. This traditional dish originates from the Szechuan Province and includes the main ingredients of chicken, dried red peppers, raw peanuts, and Szechuan peppercorns. However, the American version of Kung Pao Chicken usually leaves out the peppercorns which is the one of the most important ingredients that brings the dish to the next level. Peppercorn is commonly used in Szechuan cuisine. It gives the eater a numbing taste, combing with the spicy flavors to create a perfect combination. For a long time, the US banned imported peppercorns, but now they are finally back in the US market! I can easily find them at our local Asian market and even Amazon. Although I like the American version of Kung Pao Chicken, I think the traditional Chinese cooking method tastes so much better. Even my husband loves the Chinese version and he grew up eating the American version.
Btw, the homemade fried peanuts ….. omg…… SO GOOD!
Here’s how to make our family’s favorite Kung Pao Chicken!
First, add soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, baking soda, rice wine, and corn starch into the cubed chicken breasts. Let the chicken marinate for at least 15 minutes.
Next, make the sauce. Stir together the sauce ingredients: soy sauce, dark vinegar/white vinegar, rice wine, sugar, and corn starch. A sweet, sour, salty combo! Set it aside.
Now, for the dried red peppers. Use however much you want, because some people like less spicy, some people like super spicy. Our family loves super spicy food. So I even cut the pepper in half in order to have a more sensational spicy flavor when I cook this recipe.
Heat a wok/skillet over median heat and add some vegetable oil. Throw in a hand full (about one cup) of raw peanuts. I used half skinless peanuts, half skin on peanuts this time. But let me tell you guys a secret, if you want the peanuts to taste better and crunchier, use the peanuts with the skin on. Stir the peanuts until slightly browned outside. Then take it out and set aside.
In the same wok, use the remaining oil or add more if you need. Now, turn to high heat and add the marinated chicken breasts. Just leave them alone and don’t stir for at least a couple of minutes. This way it will help the chicken start browning. When the chicken has started to turn brown, give it a stir, then leave them alone again. Repeat this step 3-4 times, until the chicken is brown all over. Then take the chicken out and set aside.
In a clean wok/skillet on median-low heat, add some vegetable oil. Throw in Szechuan peppercorns. Stir the peppercorns until they have started to turn black, take them out. Most Chinese don’t eat the peppercorns because it has a hard shell and they are difficult to chew. So, after cooking the flavor out, I usually just throw them away.
Remember peppercorns can’t be cooked in over-heated oil because they will burn easily and the flavor will become very bitter.
Add the dried red peppers, stir until the spicy flavor comes out. Now you should start coughing because the spicy smell has filled your kitchen. Make sure you don’t overcook the peppers (turn black), otherwise the peppers will make the dish bitter.
Throw in the minced fresh garlic and ginger. Stir until the rich smells comes out.
Turn the heat to high. Add the chicken back in the wok. Stir for a minute or two.
Whisk the sauce, pour in the sauce mixture. Stir the sauce for 1 to 2 minutes to thicken the whole thing.
Turn off the stove, throw in the fired peanuts, give it a stir! Mmm, now the Kung Pao chicken is done!
Enjoy it with some rice and garlic bok choys. What a great dinner idea!
Kung Pao Chicken
- 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small cubes
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp rice wine
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp corn starch
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 tbsp minced ginger
- hand full of dried red peppers
- 2 tsp szechuan peppercorns (optional)
- 4 whole green onion, cut them small
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp rice wine
- 2 tsp dark vinegar/white vinegar
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp corn starch
In a big bowl, mix together the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, dark vinegar, rice wine, baking soda, sugar and corn starch. Put in the cubed chicken. (ingredient from 1 to 7) Mix the chicken until cover all the flavor. Set aside for at least 15 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, rice wine, dark vinegar, sugar and corn starch. (ingredient 13 to o17) Set aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in a wok/skillet over median high heat, fried the peanuts until brown. Take them out and set aside.
Use the remaining oil or add more if needed, turn the heat to high. Throw in the chicken. Cook the chicken until they has turned brown. Take them out and set aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in median-low heat, add the peppercorns, stir until turned black, take them out. Add dried red pepper, cook until the spicy smell comes out. Throw in minced garlic, ginger, green onion. Stir them for a minute.
Add the chicken, stir everything to combine. Whisk the sauce, and pour in the sauce mixture, stir until the sauce thicken.
Turn off the stove, add the fried peanuts. Give it a stir. Serve with cooked rice and vegetable.
Don't over cook the dried red pepper, otherwise the dish will tastes bitter.