Kung Po chicken
This is a classic dish from Sichuan. It is named after Ding Baochen (1820–86), a governor of Sichuan; “Gong Bao” or “Kung Po” means “palatial guardian,” in reference to his official title. I love this spicy-sweet dish, but can’t stand versions of it made with oyster sauce or cabbage. In my view, it should be numbingly spicy, sweet, and tangy.
There are many variations of the dish and this is my home-style Western version. The tang comes from the Chinkiang black rice vinegar.
Prep time: 10 minutes l Cook in: 10 minutes l Serves: 2–4 to share
2 skinless chicken breasts or 4 thighs, cut into ½-inch slices
Salt and ground white pepper
1 tbsp of potato flour or cornstarch
1 tbsp of peanut oil
2 tbsps of Sichuan peppercorns
4 dried red chilies
1 tbsp of Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry
1 red pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
2 scallions, chopped into 1-inch lengths
Handful of dry-roasted cashews
For the Sauce
7 tbsps of cold vegetable stock
1 tbsp of light soy sauce
1 tbsp of tomato ketchup
1 tbsp of Chinkiang black rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp of hoisin sauce
1 tsp of chili sauce
1 tbsp of cornstarch
1. Place the chicken in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the potato flour or cornstarch and mix well to coat the chicken pieces. Add all the ingredients for the sauce to another bowl and stir to combine.
2. Heat a wok over high heat until it starts to smoke and then add the peanut oil. Add the Sichuan
peppercorns and dried chilies and fry for a few seconds, then add the chicken pieces and stir-fry for 2 minutes. As the chicken begins to turn opaque, add the rice wine or dry sherry. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, then pour in the sauce.
3. Bring to a boil, add the red pepper, and cook in the sauce with the chicken for another 2 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through and the sauce has thickened and become slightly sticky in consistency. Add the scallions and cook for 1 minute. Toss in the cashews, then transfer to a serving plate and serve immediately.
CHING’S TIP: For a darker sauce, you could add a small drop of dark soy sauce.
(* Recipe from Ching's Everyday Easy Chinese (William Morrow, October 4, 2011) by Ching-He Huang, Photography by Jamie Cho, reproduced by permission of the publisher)