Kung Pao chicken 宫保鸡丁 is a Chinese dish that love by everyone.

The Chinese like its spiciness and numbness feeling on the tongue. People in English speaking countries enjoy the unmistakably authentic Chinese flavor, and chefs like it because it is quick and easy to prepare.

This article shows you how to prepare this classic stir-fried dish originated in the Sichuan Province, China.

As of many other stir-fried dishes, you can prepare Kung Pao, chicken in less than half an hour.  Stir-Frying only takes less than five minutes.

Note: There are different spellings for this Chinese dish: kung pow chicken, kung pao chicken, gong bao chicken, kung po chicken, and kung bo are just some of the variants.

Kung Pao chicken 宫保鸡丁 is a Chinese dish that love by everyone.  The Chinese like its spiciness and numbness feeling on the tongue. This article shows you how to prepare this classic stir-fried dish originated in the Sichuan Province, China.

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The origin of Kung Pao chicken.

It has become part of the stable of the American-style Chinese food with its own interpretation. Kung Pao chicken is also famous in Southeast Asian countries where many Chinese live.

Kung Pao chicken is named after the government officer Ding Baozhen 丁宝桢 of Sichuan Province during the late Qing Dynasty. Since its official position is a palace guardian 宫保, which pronounced as Gongbao, the dish has since named with his post until today.

The step-by-step guide: How to cook Kung Pao chicken

1. Marinate the chicken

Breast meat versus thigh meat

Chefs who use thigh meat vouch that it is juicier and the texture is more tender, but traditional Chinese chefs will only use breast meat which has been used since the Ching dynasty.

The breast meat produces a more attractive Kung Pao chicken dish. The breast meat looks chunkier, glossier, and more appealing than the thigh meat. The chicken breast cubes coated with egg whites are significantly juicier and more tender.

The marinade comprises of salt, ground white pepper, Shaoxing wine, and some water, egg, cornstarch and dark soy sauce.

Method:

  • Cut the breast meat into 1cm thick large pieces. Tenderize the meat by pounding it with a meat mallet or the back of the knife.
  • Cut the meat into 1½ cm square cubes.  After that, add the salt, ground white pepper, wine, water. egg, cornstarch and 1/4 teaspoon of dark soy sauce. Mix it well
  • Marinate for 20 minutes.

Note:

  • The purpose of adding a small amount of water is to let the meat to absorb moisture and become more tender
  • Beaten egg help to form a coating to the meat and therefore prevent the surface from becoming too dry during deep-frying.
  • Dark soy sauce should add last, as the purpose is to add some color to the chicken pieces.
kung pao chicken recipe

2. Prepare the Kung Pao sauce

While we are marinating the chicken, prepare the sauce for the Kung Pao chicken.

The sauce comprises the following ingredients: light soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar, sugar, Chinese Shaoxing wine, ground white pepper, and cornstarch.  

You will find these items are often used together in other Chinese recipes. Therefore, some chefs like to pre-mix the sauce in a larger quantity and keep in the freezer in divided portions. This method saved time, and the extra can be used for other dishes.

3. The aromatics and other ingredients

The aromatics used in this recipe is identical to General Tso’s chicken.  However, we used more dry chili in this recipe.

  • Garlic.  Best to crush the garlic clove with the back of the knife. The whole garlic clove has less tendency to get burnt during sauteing. Keep the heat low if you are using minced garlic since it can char very quickly over medium to high heat.
  • Ginger. Cut the ginger into thin slices.
  • Scallion.  Cut the white section of the scallions into half cm section.
  • Dry chili.  Clean the dry chili with water, then cut into 3cm sections.  Remove the seeds.
  • Sichuan peppercorns. Add one tablespoon (see below).

Sichuan peppercorns- an optional item

Sichuan peppercorns have a complex flavor and produce a tingly numbing sensation on the tongue. Harold McGee, in his book On Food and Cooking concisely describe this:

“They produce a strange, tingling, buzzing, numbing sensation that is something like the effect of carbonated drinks or of a mild electrical current (touching the terminals of a nine-volt battery to the tongue).”

I find that marinating the meat with the ground Sichuan peppercorns yields a better result than adding them to the wok to saute with the ginger and scallions.

Note: If you think the taste is not what you want, it is perfectly fine to omit it. There are some original Kung Pao chicken recipes from China do not contain Sichuan peppercorns.

4. Deep-fried the chicken

Deep-fried the chicken in hot oil for one minute at about 170°C/340°F. The chicken is just cooked and remain tender. Remove and drained.

You can pan-fry the chicken with less oil if you prefer to use less oil. , However, deep-frying ensures the meat pieces were evenly cooked.

5. Stir-frying

  • Place about two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok or frying pan. Add garlic, ginger, dry chilies, Sichuan peppercorns, and stir-fry over medium heat until aromatic.
  • Return the deep-fried chicken to the wok.
  • Add the kung pao sauce to coat the chicken.
  • Coat the chicken evenly with the sauce.
  • Flash fry for ten seconds. Add the roasted cashew nuts. Dish out.

Note: Groundnuts are use in China instead of cashew nuts.

The result

This recipe meets the stringent requirement of the original Sichuan style Kung Pao chicken. First, you taste the sourness and sweetness of the vinegar and honey, then the spiciness of the dry chili, and finally the aftertaste of numbness on your tongue from the Sichuan peppercorns.

The vibrant color of the spring onion and the distinct maroon color of the dry chili make it visually attractive.

Yield: 2

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao chicken is one of the most popular Chinese cuisines in the world.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

Marinade

  • 500 g chicken breast meat
  • 5g salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 beaten egg
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon dark soy sauce

Sauce

Other ingredients

Instructions

  1. Cut the chicken into about 1½ cm square cubes. Add the ingredients in the marinade section above. Marinate for 30 minutes.
  2. Deep-fry the chicken in vegetable oil over medium heat for about two minutes until golden. Remove from oil.
  3. Mix all the ingredients in the Sauce section of the ingredients list. 
  4. Place about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a wok or frying pan. Add garlic, ginger, Szechuan peppercorns, scallion, dry chilies, and stir-fry over medium heat until aromatic.
  5. Add the chicken back to the pan.
  6. Add the kung pao sauce to the wok.
  7. Coat the chicken evenly with the sauce.
  8. Flash fry for ten seconds. Add the roasted cashew nuts. Dish out

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

3

Serving Size:

3 servings

Amount Per Serving:Calories: 1523 Total Fat: 78g Saturated Fat: 24g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 35g Cholesterol: 374mg Sodium: 5524mg Carbohydrates: 74g Fiber: 6g Sugar: 14g Protein: 128g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 6/6/2019

    4 replies to "Kung Pao chicken – How to cook (authentic Chinese recipe)"

    • KP Kwan

      Hi, this is KP Kwan. I am happy to see you at this comment area, as you have read through my recipe. I am happy to reply any questions and comments as soon as possible.

    • Renato

      Hi mint ! Truly, a very complete research, amazing. You’re very skilled. Wonderful blog.

      • KP Kwan

        Hi Renato.
        Thank you for your comment, and I am glad that you like Kung Pao chicken.

        KP Kwan

    • […] combination for General Tso’s chicken, which a favorite item in our restaurant. (Check out the Kung Pao chicken recipe if you like Chinese […]

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