We are slowly settling into our new surroundings and liking it so far. Most of our belongings are still on a container ship somewhere out there making its slow way to this part of the world. So while I wait to be reunited with my kitchenware, I have begun stacking up on ingredients to help with home cooked meals.
An early exploration of our current and temporary neighbourhood revealed a used books bookstore – a gem of a place and quite a threat to the wallet! You’re guaranteed to not leave empty handed every time you walk in there. They have an extensive collection of second hand books with at least 2 whole aisles dedicated to cookbooks. The last time I went in there I got a lovely book titled ‘Best of the Best’, a Food&Wine magazine publication from 2008 that highlights the year’s best cookbooks and shares recipes from 25 of them. It’s a great collection of recipes from all corners of the world. And looking at the success of this kung pao chicken I tried the other evening, it definitely was money well spent.
This recipe comes from Kylie Kwong’s ‘My China’ book. According to her, this dish is originally called ‘gongbao jiding’ in Chinese, it means ‘Governor’s Diced Chicken’ and is named after a 19th century Sichuanese governor.
The oil is heated on a very low heat along with dried red chillies and this imparts a deep smoky flavour to the finished dish. The only change I made was to use chicken breasts instead of thighs. Even though I left out the Sichuan pepper and used sunflower oil instead of peanut oil, this dish was still a winner.
Kung pao chicken has been one of our favourites over the years and I’ll definitely be making this version more often.
Kung Pao Chicken (original recipe from ‘Best of the Best’ & Kylie Kwong’s ‘My China’)
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
about 400-500g chicken breast fillets cut into bite sized cubes
2tbsp cornflour or cornstarch
2tbsp shao hsing or rice wine
4tbsp peanut oil
10 small dried red chillies
a small piece of ginger cut into thin strips
1tbsp brown sugar
2tbsp light soy sauce
1tbsp Chinese black vinegar
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
a pinch of Sichuan pepper and salt
Combine chicken cubes with cornflour/cornstarch and rice wine. Cover and refrigerate for an hour. Place the oil and chillies in a wok and turn on the heat at the lowest setting. Let the oil heat up slowly and once the chillies begin to darken slightly, remove it from the wok and drain on kitchen paper.
Turn the heat up, add the chicken cubes and stir fry for about 2-3 minutes until nice and golden brown. You may have to do this in batches to avoid crowding the pan. When the last batch has fried, add the remaining chicken, chillies and ginger to the wok. Add sugar, stir fry for 30 seconds. Then add soy sauce and vinegar and stir fry for 30 seconds.
Turn off the heat, add the peanuts and stir through. Sprinkle the Sichuan pepper and salt and serve immediately with rice.
A great easy dish for a wonderful weekday supper. Give it a try.