Seasonal Eating Market Blog > Posts > Kung Pao Chicken with Vegetables
May 20
Kung Pao Chicken with Vegetables

Years ago, when I was in high school, my Dad went to Washington, DC for several months for school.  While there he picked up two Chinese cookbooks.  One was divided into sections by the area of China and in the West section was a recipe for Kung Pao Chicken.  My Mom would make this quite often for dinner and we loved it.  The recipe only had chicken and peanuts and growing up that's the way we had it but now I like to add some vegetables along with the chicken.  The Kung Pao is spicy, sweet, savory and salty all at once - lovely and rich like so many Chinese dishes.

Kung Pao Chicken with Vegetables.jpg 

A critical component of this recipe is the way the chicken is cooked.  A mixture of egg white and cornstarch is whisked together and then the chicken cubes are tossed in this mixture.  The coating protects the chicken from getting tough and dried out when stir fried.  It also helps the chicken to get a little crispy and browned on the outside.  The original recipe called for almost deep frying the chicken in a cup of oil, but I use just a few tablespoons.  Interestingly enough, while I was getting groceries today, chicken is somewhat limited in the choices and you could only purchase 2 packages.  So instead of my normal boneless, skinless chicken breasts, they only had thinly sliced breasts in the smaller packages (I didn't want 8-10 breasts).  So this worked just great since I was going to cut it into 1/2" pieces anyway - saved me some work!​

I also didn't have any sugar snap peas (which I usually use) and the only package in the store was very large and I knew I wouldn't use all of it before spoiling.  So I had some regular frozen English peas in the freezer and used those instead.  Another example of making do with what we have and what we can get in these different times!  Good thing recipes are flexible.  

In fact, I have also just used bottled Kung Pao sauce instead of making my own and that works too.  Most of the bottled sauces are pretty hot though, so you may not need to add any red pepper flakes when using bottled sauce - taste it first or you might be suprised but realize that it will mellow out a little when combined with the chicken and rice.

For me, the very best part of Kung Pao Chicken is the peanuts.  I use cocktail peanuts which are fairly large and don't have any skins.  I add them towards the end so they stay a little crunchy but if you like your peanuts a little softer, then add them in earlier so they cook more.  I like the peanuts so well, that now I often add peanuts or cashews to other stir fries too.  They add protein and a great texture and flavor.

I serve my Chinese dishes and stir fries over a sticky rice.  It is a medium grain rice, higher in starch so it sticks together rather than cooking up into individual, fluffy, separate grains.  It makes eating with chopsticks much easier.  If you don't have this rice just use regular white or brown rice and use a fork.

So if you have a craving for Chinese food, Kung Pao Chicken at home is a great option!

Kung Pao Chicken with Vegetables

1 egg white

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2" chunks

1/4 cup brown bean sauce (or black bean sauce)

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

4 teaspoons sherry

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 cup water

2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 carrots, sliced

4 ounces mushrooms, sliced

4 ounces sugar snap peas, cut in half crosswise

1 clove garlic

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 cup cocktail peanuts

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg white and cornstarch.  Stir in chicken to coat and set aside.  In another bowl, stir together the brown bean sauce, hoisin sauce, vinegar, sherry, sugar and water.  In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil over high heat.  Add the chicken and cook, stirring constantly until just done.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a clean bowl.  Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of oil  and add the carrots and mushrooms.  Cook, stirring constantly for a couple of minutes, until carrots are almost tender.  Add the peas, garlic and crushed red pepper.  Cook for another couple of minutes until the peas are just slightly tender but still have some crunch.  Add the chicken, sauce and peanuts and heat through.  Serve over rice.


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