I always enjoy my blog, but sometimes I especially love my blog. This is one of those times. A few weeks ago I was contacted by Diana of appetite for china, asking me if I would be interested in blogging about a dish from her new cookbook, The Chinese Takeout Cookbook: Quick and Easy Dishes to Prepare at Home, to “bring’ to a potluck celebrating the Chinese New Year as well as the release of said cookbook. In return I will receive a copy of the cookbook. Uh, YES! Sign me up ASAP! I actually had her book on my wish list already!
Participants were given a choice of 6 different recipes to make for the potluck. They all looked scrumptious. So scrumptious, in fact, that I finally bought a wok (I know, it is somewhat shocking I never owned one). Because I plan to make more recipes from this book, so I might as well get the proper cooking equipment. Seasoning it was a breeze–although I had never heard of seasoning with salt (pictured above). I used salt and then oil, and nothing has stuck in the few times I have used it thus far.
The Kung Pao Chicken requires various Chinese ingredients, although Diana does suggest substitutes for some of them. One question I had for her was what kind of soy sauce to use (I know, only crazy people like me actually have 8 billion different kinds of soy sauce). The answer is a Chinese soy sauce, and a light soy sauce, not the superior dark (which I admit I usually prefer as it is richer and sweeter). Pearl River Bridge, pictured above, is a good brand.
Diana also emphasizes that one necessary ingredient is Sichuan peppercorns. Don’t be afraid of their heat–it is a numbing, tingly heat rather than a tongue-burning heat, and my kids honestly did not even notice it (I did reduce the number of dried chile peppers though).
I got a pretty big wok, so I felt comfortable doubling the recipe. However I also doubled the liquid ingredients, both in the sauce and the marinade. As a result, my Kung Pao Chicken was considerably saucier than Diana’s. The flavor, however, was delicious. In the future I might reduce some of the liquid. Maybe Diana will have some advice for me!
The cooking took a tad longer than it would in a commercial kitchen, because the heat is not burning quite as high as a commercial cooktop–or even as hot as the same flame would burn on my cooktop if it could walk down my lane and out to main the road, where apparently we could get the full 15,000 BTUs going. But because of losing pressure over the distance down to my house, I only get 12,000 BTUs.
The main change I made to the recipe was to increase the garlic and ginger (habit) and decrease the dried chile peppers (children). I served steamed broccoli on the side. Doubled, the recipe made not quite enough for 2 nights for this family of 4, so I took the leftovers and turned them into fried rice, which was a brilliant move if I may say so. After heating garlic and ginger in the wok, and then browning onions, I added the leftover Kung Pao Chicken before adding rice, broccoli and peas, along with extra soy sauce and sesame oil. It was a fantastic way to stretch this meal into 3 meals (the fried rice made enough for 2 nights also).
- 1 lb skinless boneless chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 T peanut or vegetable oil
- 5-10 dried red chilis
- 5 scallions, sliced, white and green parts separated
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 t minced or grated ginger
- ¼ cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, I only had salted but next time I would get unsalted
- 1 T Chinese light soy sauce
- 2 t Chinese rice wine, Shaohsing or dry sherry
- 1 ½ t cornstarch
- 1 T Chinese black vinegar, or substitute balsamic
- 1 t Chinese light soy sauce
- 1 t hoisin sauce
- 1 t sesame oil
- 2 t sugar
- 1 t cornstarch
- 1 t ground Sichuan pepper
Like all stir fried, this will move quickly once you get started, so make sure that everything is prepped before you actually heat the pan/wok.
First marinate the chicken: In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice wine, and cornstarch until the cornstarch dissolves. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Let stand while you prepare everything else.
Next prepare the sauce: Whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, sugar, cornstarch, and Sichuan pepper. Stir until the sugar and cornstarch dissolve and then set aside, close to your cooktop.
You may need to turn on your stove’s exhaust fan, because stir-frying dried chilis on high heat can get a little smoky. Heat a wok or large skillet (NOT nonstick) over high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat the base. Add the chilis and stir-fry for about 30 seconds, until the chilis have just begun to blacken and the oil is slightly fragrant. Add the chicken and stir-fry until no longer pink, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the scallion whites, garlic, and ginger, and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Pour in the sauce and mix to coat the other ingredients. Stir in the peanuts and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate, sprinkle the scallion greens on top, and serve with a sticky rice. I used Jasmine.