Monday, May 14, 2012

Kung Pao-ish Chicken

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...When folks talk about the food of Sichuan, three dishes usually come to mind. Almost everyone has heard of Ma Po Tofu, Dan Dan Noodles and Kung Pao Chicken. Made according to Hoyle, these dishes are fiery hot, will clear the nostrils and quite possibly grow hair on your chest. Not everyone can handle the heat associated with the food of this province. I happen to love it  and only complain when it finally numbs my sense of taste.  The Silver Fox has a much lower tolerance, so, when it comes to Sichuan cooking, we are truly a culinary odd couple. Kung Pao Chicken is wonderfully nuanced and with, or without, extreme heat, it is a delicious dish. My version of it is based in equal measure on recipes developed by Mark Bittman and Nancie McDermott.  I've cut way back on the heat they use at the request of the Silver Fox. That is why I've called my version of the dish Kung Pao-ish. I didn't want to short-change those of you who might want to see the recipe in its purest form, so I've given a range for quantities for heat producing ingredients. One of those ingredients is Sichuan peppercorns. They are  actually the husk from seeds of a shrub called the Prickly Ash. Sichuan pepper has a unique aroma and flavor that is not hot or pungent; it has a lemony overtone that creates a tingly numbness on the tip of the tongue. The Chinese call this sensation "ma la" which means numbing and spicy. While they are a staple in Asian markets, they may be hard for some of you to find. There really is no substitute for them, so it's best just to continue without them if they are not available.  This recipe seems long at first glance, but that's because the ingredients for the marinade and sauce are listed separately. In truth, both steps can be completed in about 10 minutes. While there is wait time involved, the recipe comes together quickly and is actually easy to prepare. This version of the dish is really delicious and I hope you will give it a try. Here's the recipe.

Kung Pao-ish Chicken...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite inspired by Mark Bittman and Nancie McDermott

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry or Shaoxing rice wine
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry or Shaoxing rice wine
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or Chenkiang vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 to 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1/4 to 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and crushed (optional)
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1/4 cup coarsely chopped green onion
1/2 cup cup roasted, salted peanuts
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

1) Chop chicken into 1-inch chunks. Combine soy sauce, sherry, cornstarch, and vegetable oil in a medium bowl. Mix well. Add chicken and toss to coat evenly with marinade. Set aside for 30 to 60 minutes, or refrigerate, covered, for up to one day.
2) Combine soy sauce, sherry, vinegar, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl. Stir to dissolve dry ingredients. Mix well.
3) Heat a wok or a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add vegetable oil. Swirl to coat pan. When oil is hot, but not smoking, add red pepper flakes and, if using, Sichuan peppercorns. Toss or stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
4) Add chicken to pan in a single layer, if possible. Cook for 1 minute without stirring. Then toss. Add garlic, ginger and green onions and cook for 2 minutes, or until chicken has changed color and is cooked through.
5) Stir sauce and add to pan. Cook and stir, or toss, for 1 minute longer. Add peanuts and sesame oil and toss again to mix. Transfer to a serving  platter. Serve hot or warm. Yield: 4 servings.

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Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

It does sound like a very flavourful dish with or without the heat Mary.

Priya Suresh said...

Slurp,mouthwatering here, give me that whole dish rite now.would love to have for my lunch.

DH said...

I love Kung Pao chicken! I don't use schihuan peppers because I don't like them, but it's still delicious with out. Have you tried it with fresh tuna instead of chicken? It's delicious! You could also swap scallops with the chicken. More expensive, but a good option for Lent...

Lenia said...

It sounds wonderful!Blessings,dear Mary!

Kim said...

I love asian cuisine, you know that. But I must say, I don't know a lot about Sichuan one... But I do know Kung pao chicken and I like it A LOT! I must try your recipe!

Lori said...

Looks incredibly delicious Mary.

pam said...

I am a Bittman - McDermott blend too! Though I tend to lean a little more heavily towards McDermott - she is my go to for all things Asian.

Claudia said...

This used to be one of go-to meals to clear m y sinuses! Haven't had it in ages. Fun to see.

Judy@SavoringToday said...

Kung Pao is one of our favorites, but I know what you mean about the heat. It can be tricky to make it so that the flame eaters are as happy as those in the mild crowd.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

You do manage to take us around the world - I would love to spend some time in your kitchen!

Susan Lindquist said...

This is one of my all-time favorite Asian recipes ... the hotter the better. So very good! What a great dish to share with your readers, Mary!

Barbara said...

Love your title, Mary. I don't care for things that are overly hot or spiced either, so I'm with the Silver Fox.
Great adaptation!
(I've made that grape cake and we loved it!)

What's next said...

I love Kung Pao, never have made it myself, I will have to try this!!

David said...

Mary, Kung Pao chicken is one of my favorites! But I'm with you...bring on the HEAT! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Blond Duck said...

Oh this looks good!

Valérie said...

Ah, one of my favourite weekday dishes! Although I like to use whole dried peppers roughly chopped, but they do tend to bring more heat than some would like. Have a great week!

Mr. Bill said...

Sounds great!! Going to make tonight with pork. Brown rice to accompany.

Big Dude said...

Bev didn't used to like spicy at all and now she and I have the same issue as you guys. This dish sounds delicious.


Your title ... made me smile.

QembarDelites said...

I love this dish very much, in fact I have cooked this recently and intend to post about it but somehow it was sidetracked and postponed.

Chiara said...

looks delicious Mary, blessings...

Unknown said...

Love this! I could eat this dish every day!!

Shawn @ I Wash...You Dry said...

I love "nostril clearing, chest-hair growing" spicy food...the family...not so much. This sounds like a great trade off! Thanks!

Evan Halperin said...

looks delicious. trying this for lunch today (and leftovers), but maybe with a red pepper too

My Little Space said...

Sichuan cuisine is very unique in a way, the strong and inviting flavour of the hot spices. Simply amazing! I bet no one can ever resist such delicious kung pao chicken of yours too.

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