I’m working on becoming a better cook, with a goal of conquering some Asian cuisines. My first effort, was Indian Butter Chicken, which turned out great, so now I’ve turned my sights on Kung Pao Chicken. This happens to be one of my dad’s favorite Chinese dishes, so he will act as my test taster.
I chose one of the easier recipes I found, from Food & Wine Magazine, online. (link above) I was looking for a recipe that didn’t venture too far astray from my eating philosophy, which is eating seasonally and using produce and proteins I can get from my local farmer’s market. Although I grew peanuts last year, I had to purchase the ones I used here.
The main ingredient is chicken, and I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Smith and Smith Farms, which I got at the Mueller Farmer’s Market. This chicken was beautifully trimmed and incredibly fresh. (Learning to properly debone a whole chicken is also on my lists to conquer, but I’m dreading that one).
The first part of the process is to cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, and marinate the chicken in Soy Sauce, sherry and Cornstarch. (I bought Tamari for the soy sauce and Bob’s Red Mill Cornstarch.)
Once the chicken was cut marinating in the fridge, I chopped the onions and Bell Pepper. The recipe didn’t call for Bell Pepper, but B5 Farms at the farmer’s market, had some beautiful bell peppers, grown in the greenhouse. I couldn’t resist.
I cut one bell pepper into the same sized pieces as the chicken, and separated the green onion whites and greens and set those aside.
Next, I made the sauce, which consisted of Tamari, Rice Vinegar, Sherry, Sesame Oil, Water, Cornstarch and a little sugar.
I wisked the sauce to get the cornstarch incorporated and set it aside. At this point I made the rice, and set it aside as well. I could tell that the next steps would happen quickly.
Time to start cooking. First, I poured a Tablespoon of Avocado Oil, (recipe called for Peanut or Vegetable Oil), into my wok, and let it get hot. Once hot, I quickly cooked the raw peanuts until they were golden brown, then set them aside.
A little more oil into then pan, and I quickly cooked the scallions, bell pepper and chili flakes.
To the vegetables, I added part of the chicken. It was clear the amount of chicken I had cut up (doubled the recipe), would be more than should go into the wok. It was still crowded, which made it take longer to cook, and caused some sticking to the wok.
Once the two batched of chicken were mostly done, I put them back into the wok with the sauce and stirred as it thickened.
At this point, I tasted the sauce, and wanted more heat, so I chopped up a garden Serrano Pepper and added it to the mix. I then turned off the heat and threw in the peanuts.
Once the sauce had reached what seemed like the appropriate thickness, and the chicken was done, I plated some up for myself, then bundled the rest to take to my parents up the street.
I enjoyed this dish, but felt as it it lacked some complexity. While I would make it again, I would like more heat, more onions and peppers, some ginger and perhaps some garlic. I’ll also revisit some of the more complicated recipes I looked at, to see how it could be made more interesting. It was very easy and fairly quick to make. My taste tester called after finishing his dinner to give the recipe an A+. My mom liked it as well, and she is the pickiest eater I know.