Kung Pao Chicken is an American Chinese Restaurant staple and I’ve had many variations. Kung Pao Chicken is one those versatile recipes that can be interpreted in many ways.
After a little research, I found that an authentic Kung Pao sauce is made with lychee, a tropical fruit, which I think looks a little like a sea urchin. You can decide for yourself.
I’m just a home cook and I rarely go out of my way to find exotic ingredients. I tend to look inside my pantry and find things that can substitute “authentic” elements for a recipe. Sichuan cuisine is all about umami, the stimulating flavor of sweet, sour, acid and spice. I combine a variety of common elements to achieve the umami sensation, and that’s exactly what I did for this dish. It’s not authentic but, I attempted to stay true to the spirit of the dish. It’s just me, putting things together in a thoughtful way, just like any good home cook would do.
4 Thai chilis, remove seeds and reserve. Reserve chilis for the stir fry.
1 inch fresh ginger, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, mashed
1 Tbs cooking oil
¼ cup dark soy sauce
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs peanut butter
1 Tbs sambal oelek garlic chili sauce
1 Tbs molasses (or Hoisin sauce)
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp cornstarch
1 Tbs. vinegar
2 Tbs water
1 tsp sugar
8 ounces of dry Asian noodles
1 Tbs cooking oil
1 pound boneless skinless chicken things, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 Tbs cornstarch (or rice starch)
3 celery stalks, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 large carrots, diagonally sliced into ¼” thick
1 medium yellow or white onion, Julienne sliced
1” piece of ginger, cut into small matchstick-sized pieces
1 ½ cups roasted peanuts (salted or unsalted – I used sweet chili roasted peanuts)
2 Tbs toasted sesame seeds
3 green onions, chopped
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
Prepare the sauce. Cut the chilis in half, lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Separate the seeds and set aside. Slice the ginger and chop the garlic. Set these aside.
Add the dark soy sauce, soy sauce, peanut butter, garlic chili sauce, molasses (or Hoisin sauce), sesame oil, sugar and vinegar to a bowl.
Heat a large skillet low heat. Add a teaspoon of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the seeds from the chilis. Allow the seeds to simmer in the oil until they begin to pop and become light brown.
Add the ginger and garlic and heat for another two minutes, while stirring. If the garlic starts to burn, remove it and discard the pieces of garlic.
Pour the sauce ingredients into the skillet and simmer at low heat. Whisk to blend the sauce. In a small bowl, add the water and cornstarch. Stir with a fork until the cornstarch forms a paste. Add the cornstarch past to the sauce and turn the heat to medium. Whisk the sauce until it bubbles and thickens.
Strain sauce into a large bowl. Discard the solid pieces and set the sauce aside.
Boil the noodles until they are al dente. Strain, drizzle a little sesame oil over the noodles and toss to combine. Set aside until ready to use.
Prepare the vegetables and sort them on a large platter. Set aside.
Cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle with cornstarch and toss is in a bowl to coat. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes while you prepare the wok.
Heat a wok to medium/high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil. Add the pieces of chicken, a few at a time, to the wok. Allow the chicken to fry without stirring for about one minute and then stir with a spatula until the chicken is light, golden brown. Remove the chicken to a bowl and set aside.
Turn the heat down to medium/low heat. Add the celery, carrots and onion. Stir fry for a few minutes. When the carrot starts to soften, add the prepared ginger. Stir over medium heat for another minute. Add the Thai chilis, if you want to bring the heat!
Add the prepared sauce. Mix with a spatula.
Add the chicken and continue to stir for a minute, or two.
Add the peanuts. Stir to combine.
Add some of the green onion and stir briefly.
Add the prepared noodles and toss.
Turn off the heat and transfer everything to a large bowl.
Garnish serving bowls with cilantro, green onion and toasted sesame seeds.