Frequently, recipes for Chinese kung pao chicken throw in everything but the kitchen sink – from carrots and bell peppers to water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. I like this recipe for kung pao because of its simplicity. It really allows you to taste the bold flavors that infuse the chicken without distractions.
- 3 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 medium scallion, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp minced or grated fresh ginger
- ½ tsp. Szechuan peppercorns, or more to taste
- 10-12 dried small red chiles (Tien Tsin or chile de árbol)
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tsp. soy sauce, or more to taste
- 2 tsp. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. lao chou soy sauce (dark soy sauce)
- 1 tsp. Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
- 1 tsp potato starch
- 2 Tbsp roasted peanuts
- Cooked rice, for serving
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large wok or skillet over high until shimmering and very hot. Add chicken; cook, stirring constantly, until chicken pieces have separated from each other and the chicken is just cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer the chicken to a plate lined with paper towels; set aside.
- Return the wok to heat over high; add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the scallion, ginger, peppercorns, chiles, and garlic; stir-fry until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Don’t burn the garlic!
- Return the chicken to the wok; stir to combine. Stir in vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, dark soy sauce, wine, and potato starch; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and thick, about 1 minute. Add peanuts, and toss to combine. Remove from heat, and serve immediately with rice.
Note: Don’t eat the dried chile peppers.
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.