Wok and Roll

Put some spice in your life with this restaurant favorite. This is not your everyday local take-out Kung Pao Chicken—heck no, this is fine dining Kung Pao Chicken my friend. So set your table, pour a glass of wine and invite the guests, because it’s time to impress! Who needs take out when you can make this fantastic recipe at home?

You may initially be overwhelmed by the huge ingredient list, but once you taste the end result where all the flavors meld into total deliciousness, there’ll be no going back. Because we stir-fry a lot, we had all of the ingredients including regular and dark soy sauce, Shao Hsing rice wine, dried red chiles, ground Sichuan pepper corns and sesame oil. If you don’t have them, trust me, it’s worth tracking down all of the fixings because no doubt you’ll want to make it again, and again, and again…

As the Boy Scouts say “Be Prepared” because once you start flinging the spatula around the wok, there’ll be no time to measure or chop, so read the recipe all of the way through first. Then when everything is prepped, heat the wok and perform like a kitchen maestro! I actually stood by Russ and read him directions one at a time as he stir-fried because everything happens in 1 minute or less intervals.

Chicken thigh meat has more flavor than the breast meat so we used that; and with cocktail peanuts already in our pantry, we didn’t bother buying unsalted roasted peanuts. Always looking for ways to increase the vegetable quotient, a yellow pepper was incorporated along with the red, and the scallion amount was nearly doubled. Finally, as you can see by the photo we used 8 dried red chiles and didn’t think it was too spicy—but of course, that’s us…

Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 7 minutes
Makes: 2 to 3 servings as a main dish with rice, 4 servings as part of a multicourse meal

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound of boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 2 Tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp plus 1 Tbsp Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cold water
  • 2 Tbsp chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
  • 4 to 8 (depending on your heat tolerance) dried red chiles, stems cut off
  • 1/2 tsp roasted and ground Sichuan pepper corns
  • 1 large red bell pepper cut into 1 inch squares
  • 1/4 C dry roasted unsalted peanuts
  • 1/2 C minced scallions
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Combine the chicken, ginger, garlic, cornstarch, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, salt and cold water, set aside.
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The dried red chiles and crushed Sichuan peppercorns are stir-fried briefly until fragrant.
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Move chiles to side of wok, add marinated chicken pieces.
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Stir-fry chicken with chiles until lightly browned but not cooked through. 
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Add the bell peppers and stir-fry until the peppers begin to soften.
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During the last minute, add the peanuts and green onions.

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl combine the chicken, ginger, garlic, cornstarch, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the rice wine, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon cold water. Stir to combine.
  2. In a small bowl combine the broth, vinegar, dark soy sauce, sesame oil and the remaining 1 tablespoon rice wine.
  3. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tablespoon peanut oil; add the chilies and ground Sichuan peppercorns.
  4. With a metal spatula, Stir-fry 15 seconds or until the chilies just begin to smoke. Push the chili mixture to the sides of the wok.
  5. Carefully add the chicken; spread it evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed, letting the chicken begin to sear, 1 minute. Then stir-fry until the chicken is lightly browned but not cooked through, 1 minute.
  6. Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil into the wok. Add the bell peppers and stir-fry 1 minute or until the peppers begin to soften. Swirl the broth mixture into the wok and stir-fry 1 minute or until the chicken is just cooked through.
  7. Add the peanuts and green onions, sprinkle on the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt; stir-fry until the green onions are bright green, about 30 seconds.

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Serve over cooked rice.

Note: Put Sichuan peppercorns in a dry, cold wok or skillet and remove any tiny stems. Stir over medium-low heat until the peppercorns are very fragrant and slightly smoking, 3-5 minutes. Be careful not to let them burn. Once they’re cooled, grind them in a mortar; store any extra in a jar.

An adaptation of a recipe by Grace Young

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