Kung Pao Chicken

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It has been said that Americans who never visited China have never really tasted Chinese cuisine.  I am sure there is some truth in that statement unless this is your heritage or you have been fortunate enough to discover the rare restaurant that is committed to sticking to their authentic roots.  That said, however, I rarely meet anyone who doesn’t enjoy Chinese dishes even if they are tweaked to satisfy the American palate.  From the delicacy of Cantonese dim sum served with simple dipping sauces to the complexity of the classic hot and sour soup the flavors are bright, fresh and rich.

Ever since my early cooking experiences, I have always been interested in the foods and cuisines of different cultures and aspired to learn as much as I could.  The thirst for learning and quest to acquire the cooking chops has only grown stronger as my interest in food has evolved.  I am always in search of good recipes or busy creating my own.

This is a recipe I developed that I think you will really enjoy cooking and eating.  It is my own re-creation of a popular dish ordered often at Chinese restaurants, made with a savory spicy sauce that you can adjust to satisfy your own desire for heat.   Turn it up or tone it down, it goes down like this.

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KUNG PAO CHICKEN                                Serves 2-4

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into ½-inch pieces

1 recipe of marinade (see below)

1T peanut oil

8 Chinese dried red chilies, split lengthwise and seeded

1t sambal oelek (Chinese style fresh ground chili paste) or Sriracha

4 cloves garlic, minced

1T fresh ginger, peeled and minced fine or grated

1 recipe sauce (see below)

3 scallions, white parts thinly sliced, green parts cut into 1-inch strips and set aside

1/3 c roasted peanuts

Marinade

2t soy sauce

2t Chinese rice wine (shaohsing), or sake or dry white wine

2t cornstarch

1t sambal oelek (Chinese style fresh ground chili paste) or Sriracha

Whisk all ingredients together until cornstarch is dissolved

Sauce

1T Chinese black vinegar or rice wine vinegar

1T chicken stock

1T honey

  1. Massage the chicken with the marinade in a small bowl and allow it to marinate for a minimum of 20 minutes.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok or large sauté pan on high heat. When the pan or wok is very hot just about smoking, remove from the heat and add the dried chilies and the chili paste. Stir quickly and constantly for a minute being very careful not to burn.
  3. Add the chicken to the pan; turn the heat back on to medium-high. Cook until the outer layer is no longer raw. Add the ginger, garlic, white parts of the scallion and cook for another 2 minutes while stirring occasionally.
  4. Slowly add the sauce one tablespoon at a time stirring the chicken so it absorbs the flavors between additions.
  5. Once the chicken is cooked through, add the scallion greens and the peanuts. Cook for another minute or two.
  6. Serve immediately with steamed rice or Asian noodles.

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Do not be afraid of any of the ingredients that may seem unfamiliar.  I know many of you shy away from ethnic recipes because the contents are intimidating. I strongly urge you to lock those feelings away in a strong box high on an attic shelf.  I have given you some substitutions, all of which are readily available at most grocery stores (in the ethnic aisle), or at Asian markets or online.  You can get anything online, right?  I found my husband there.  Who knew?

Seriously, you no longer need Chinese takeout.  You can create this dish at home and once you have a few of the basic ingredients in your pantry, the sky is the limit!  Start here and suddenly you will find more and more dishes you can create.  Your friends and family will be give you a standing ovation and ask why haven’t we seen this side of you before?  IMG_6297

I promise, this recipe has it all, the freshness of the ginger and scallion, the sweetness of honey, the heat of the chilies and the crunch of peanuts.  Try adding other seasonal vegetables as well.  The savory sauce can stand up to almost anything.  You have my assurance that you too can spread the love, one Chinese dish at a time.  From my table to yours, I send my love of this recipe your way.  Hope you try it! Until next time.  Jeanne

 

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2 responses to “Kung Pao Chicken

  1. Rebecca Brunot

    That sounds great!

  2. It is really flavorful, Rebecca. Let me know if you try it. I know you will make it your way 🙂 Sending love, Jeanne

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