If you’re craving not-fried chicken that’s tasty and don’t mind a bit of heat, then kung pao chicken might just hit the spot.
Kung pao is actually a classic hot-and-sour Sichuanese sauce. It works great with stir-fries — whether it’s seafood, pork, vegetables or, of course, chicken. Kung pao chicken is one of the most popular Chinese dishes featuring stir-fried chicken, peanuts and vegetables.
Traditionally, kung pao chicken (or whatever meat you choose) is made with specialty Asian ingredients, such as Chinese black vinegar and rice wine, Sichuan peppercorns, and whole dried red chillies. To infuse the oil with the desired flavour intensity and level of spiciness, the spices are fried in the oil over high heat.
However, since some ingredients could be difficult to find, you can just replace them with the closest items you can find in your pantry or neighbourhood supermarket. What’s crucial is for you to achieve that perfect combination of spicy sweetness and sourness that’s part of the appeal of traditional kung pao chicken.
A Winning Restaurant-Quality Recipe
This simple and easy-to-make dish is one of the most popular chicken breast recipes. Served traditionally on Chinese menus, kung pao chicken is great for lunch and dinner, especially when paired with a steaming bowl or plateful of warm white rice.
But to cook restaurant-quality kung pao chicken, you need more than just a great recipe like the one below.
To get that incredible flavour and texture, opt for fresh free-range chicken that you can shop for in-person or order conveniently from your neighbourhood online butcher in Brighton, Victoria.
Easy Ingredient Swaps
Kung pao chicken is no doubt one of the best-known recipes for chicken breasts, but that shouldn’t stop you from cooking with kung pao using other types of meat. You can even use baked tofu in place of meat if you want to prepare a vegetarian version of this dish.
You don’t have to limit the veggies you use to just scallions or green onions and red bell peppers either. In fact, we tweaked the original recipe a little by adding more vegetable ingredients. You can even add whatever ingredients you have on hand like carrots, baby broccoli, mushrooms, snow peas and zucchini.
And if you’re not too keen on the spice, you can always take out the Sichuan peppercorns and whole dried red chillies before serving. You can even omit the chillies if you want a milder version or have certain gut sensitivities.
A Chinese classic, this dish can be served for lunch or best enjoyed during dinner.
- 600 g Chicken breast fillet (skinless)
- 5 tablespoons Light soy sauce
- 5 tablespoons Rice wine
- 2 teaspoons Roasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon Cornflour (or corn starch)
- 120 g Water chestnuts (peeled)
- 3 tablespoons Oil
- 400 g Red capsicum
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 3 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
- 120 g Unsalted peanuts ((3/4 cup))
- 1 Spring onion (or scallion, finely chopped)
- 1 tablespoon Ginger (finely chopped)
- 1 teaspoon Chilli sauce
- 1 tablespoon Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Chinese black rice vinegar
- 60 ml Chicken stock ((1/4 cup))
- Cube the chicken into 2.5-centimetre pieces, then place them in a bowl.
- Add 2 tablespoons of the light soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of the rice wine, 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil and 2 teaspoons of the corn starch or cornflour. Set aside the extra ingredients (i.e., soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and cornflour). Toss the ingredients lightly. Marinate the chicken in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.
- In a pan of boiling water, carefully blanch the water chestnuts. Transfer the water chestnuts in cold water, and then drain thoroughly. Pat the water chestnuts dry and slice them into thin pieces.
- Set a wok over high heat, and add a teaspoon of the oil. Once the oil is very hot, quickly add the spinach, salt, 2 teaspoons of garlic and 2 teaspoons of rice wine. Toss constantly, and turn off the heat once the spinach is almost limp. Remove the spinach from the wok and arrange it around the sides of a serving platter. Set aside and keep warm.
- Reheat the wok over high heat, then add a tablespoon of the oil. When the oil is very hot, add half of the cubed chicken and toss briskly until the meat is cooked. Remove the chicken using a slotted spoon and drain. Do the same with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and chicken. Wipe the wok cleanly.
- Use the wok to dry-fry the peanuts until browned. Remove the peanuts and set them aside.
- Reheat the wok, add what’s left of the oil and heat until very hot. Add the spring onion, ginger, the last of the garlic and the chilli sauce and stir fry for about 10 seconds. Add the water chestnuts and stir-fry for another 15 seconds, or until the ingredients are completely heated through.
- Combine the sugar, black vinegar, chicken stock and what’s left of the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and cornflour. Add these ingredients to the sauce and simmer until thickened. Finally, add the cooked chicken and the peanuts. Toss the ingredients lightly to ensure everything is evenly coated with the sauce.
- Turn off the heat and transfer the cooked kung pao chicken onto the platter with spinach and serve hot with steaming bowls of rice.
Time to Shop for Ingredients
To get the best results, make sure you use free-range chicken in this kung pao recipe.
Visit the Church Street Butcher in Brighton for highquality free-range chicken, beef, pork, lamb, and other sustainably sourced fresh produce.
You can also order online and get our free delivery service (for orders above $80) in Brighton and neighbouring Bayside suburbs.