Cooking Asian cuisine has always scared the living daylights out of me. I am unfamiliar with many of the ingredients, have a poor bead on the techniques used to create the unique flavor profiles, and I figured there was no way I could ever make anything that could hold a candle to even the dingiest Chinese carry-out. Well, I decided to face my fear head on and in a rather grandiose fashion…at least in my mind it was grandiose. I planned a menu of homemade Kung Pao chicken, homemade veggie eggrolls and homemade pork pot stickers (including that awesome spicy chili sauce you get at restaurants!). This, for me, was the very definition of exposure therapy. I turned to a blog I frequent, Use Real Butter, for the basic recipes. She has some fantastic recipes for a wide range of Asian cuisine; you should give the site a visit.
Here are my thoughts on the Kung Pao chicken. (I will put the eggrolls and pot stickers in a separate post.) WARNING! Chicken marinates for 30 minutes – plan accordingly! I followed the recipe pretty closely actually. I had a little over a pound and a half of chicken which is more than the original recipe called for, so I doubled the marinade recipe and tripled the sauce – I also just like my Kung Pao to be saucy. I could not find Shaoxing cooking sherry or black vinegar, so I replaced it with regular cooking sherry and balsamic vinegar respectively. It was still very tasty, but I would recommend that if you can find the proper ingredients use them. I minced rather than sliced the garlic and ginger so it would distribute more evenly throughout the dish. I also added water chestnuts, thinly sliced red pepper and tripled the amount of peanuts ‘cause I love me some peanuts! I found this dish incredibly easy to make and just as good as – if not better than – what I would get at a local restaurant. I have officially overcome my fear of Asian cuisine, well at least some Chinese cuisine. Perhaps I shall tackle Indian food next!
Kung Pao Chicken
Adapted from Use Real Butter
1.5 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast – remove fat, cut into cubes or short, thin slices (I prefer slices)
2 tsps cornstarch
4 tsps soy sauce
2 tbsps Shaoxing cooking sherry – or regular cooking sherry
2 tsps sesame oil
3 tbsps vegetable oil (not olive oil)
8-12 dried red chili peppers, halved and de-seeded
2 tbsps of minced ginger
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red pepper sliced thin
1 cup whole bamboo shoots
2 cans sliced water chestnuts
1.5 cups peanuts or cashews, roasted and unsalted
Black pepper to taste
2 stalks green onions, diced
6 tbsps soy sauce
3 tsps sugar
3/4 tsp black vinegar – or Balsamic vinegar
6 tbsps water
1.5 tsp cornstarch
1. Mix the chicken with 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, 4 teaspoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of Shaoxing cooking sherry, and 2 teaspoons of sesame oil in a bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a bowl, mix together and set aside – yes it is that easy! This is also a good time to start cooking rice to serve with the Kung Pao chicken.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a wok, sauté pan, or large frying pan on high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and stir-fry until half-cooked. Remove the chicken from pan and put into a bowl.
4. Heat the remaining cooking oil in the same pan on high heat. Toss in the ginger, garlic, and chili peppers, stirring until the oil is fragrant. Add the chicken, bamboo shoots, sliced red peppers, water chestnuts and peanuts and stir for a few turns. Pour in the sauce and continue to stir-fry until the chicken is coated and cooked. Add black pepper to taste.
5. Serve over hot rice and sprinkle with green onions and extra peanuts