Gong Bao Chicken (China)

Listener Jake sent me this recipe after we talked about Sichuan cuisine.  This is classic gong bao chicken (which in America became kung pao), and you'll know that from the Sichuan peppercorns.  At the end of cooking, you can douse with some vodka and flambé the dish to caramelize the glaze on the chicken.

What this recipe does that I like is that it has you roast your own nuts to make them as crispy and crunchy as possible. Too often, they are thrown in at the end, pre-roasted. This version uses cashews, which make the dish so much fancier.  You can use the same amount of peanuts as a substitute.

 

Serves 4

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound (500 g) dark-meat chicken, cut in ½-inch cubes

  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) Shaoxing wine

  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt

  • ½ cup (120 ml) fresh cashews (or fresh skinless peanuts)

  • 4 tablespoons (60 ml) Zhenjiang black vinegar

  • 4 tablespoons (60 ml) chicken stock

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) Chinese light soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) sugar

  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) Shaoxing wine

  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) cornstarch

  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt

  • 12 (or more) dried medium-hot chili peppers, preferably Sichuan, large ones snipped in half

  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) Sichuan peppercorns

  • 6 scallions, cut in ½-inch (1-cm) lengths, whites and greens separated

  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) coarsely chopped ginger

  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) coarsely chopped garlic

 

STEPS

  1. Marinate chicken cubes in 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine and ½ teaspoon salt.

  2. Heat wok until hot and add 3 tablespoons peanut or canola oil. When oil is hot, turn heat to low, add nuts and gently stir-fry until toasty brown all over. Watch closely so they don't burn. Remove from wok and let drain on paper towel. They will firm up and become crunchy when cool.

  3. Mix sauce ingredients together in a measuring cup: Zhenjiang vinegar, chicken stock, light soy sauce, sugar, 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine, cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon salt.

  4. Clean wok and heat over a high flame until very hot (which keeps the chicken from sticking). Add 2 tablespoons oil, swirl around the pan, and when you see smoke begin to rise, add the chicken cubes. Spread the chicken out around the wok, and let the pieces sear on one side. Flip the chicken and let sear on the other side. Stir-fry until chicken is cooked through and lightly browned. Remove chicken from wok and let drain on a paper towel.

  5. Clean work and return to heat. When wok is hot, add 3 tablespoons fresh oil and heat briefly on a medium flame. Add chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns and stir-fry vigorously, toasting but not burning them. Add the scallion whites, ginger and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant.

  6. Add back the chicken cubes and toss in the scallion greens. Stir-fry briefly and mix well. Add the sauce and mix well. As the sauce thickens, add back the cashew nuts and stir-fry briefly until all ingredients are well combined. Plate and serve.

 

Recipe adapted from Taylor Holliday | The Mala Project | Cooking Sichuan in America

Photo from user Alpha on Flickr

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