Sunday, September 11, 2011

Kung POW Chicken!

Probably second to my love for Italian food is my love for Asian food - mostly Chinese (Sichuan and Cantonese) and Thai. This of course is a recipe for Kung Pao Chicken (doesn't Kung POW sound more fun?), a classic Sichuan dish. I got the recipe from a cookbook, "Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge" by Grace Young. Despite the ridic name, it's actually a pretty handy cookbook, filled with all sorts of classic and interesting recipes for one of the most fun (and fast) cooking techniques. The book is of course Chinese-based, but in some recipes mixes other cultures like Jamaican, Trinidadian, and American. Because you're stir frying, you must be ready. And by that I mean have your 'mise en place' (everything in its place) ... like, don't be chopping shit as your wok is burning at a zillion degrees; have everything ready and chopped/minced/mixed/measured before you start. You'll also most likely have to shop for some ingredients at specialty stores, so don't plan to just wing this recipe with what's in your pantry (unless you're like me and have plenty of random shit lying around).

Ingredients (serves 2-3 as a main dish served with rice):
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, or a mix of breast and thighs, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine, or dry sherry (you can get Shao Hsing - sometimes spelled Shaoxing - at any Asian market - like T&T if you're in Toronto)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon Chinkiang (also called Black or Black Rice Vinegar) or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce (the dark stuff is thicker and more pungent)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil - something that's neutral and good at high heats
  • 6 dried chili peppers (and I don't mean red chili pepper flakes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 large bell pepper - I used green but red is good too - cut into 1" squares
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (optional - I added it because I had one I wanted to use, but the original recipe doesn't call for it)
  • 3/4 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup minced scallions
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, ginger, garlic, cornstarch, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the rice wine (Shao Hsing), 1 teaspoon of the sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1 teaspoon cold water. Stir to combine and let sit.
  2. In a small bowl combine the broth, vinegar, dark soy sauce, sesame oil and remaining 1 tablespoon rice wine.
  3. Heat a large wok (or big stainless steel skillet if you don't have a wok) over high heat until a bead of water evaporates within 1-2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tbsp of peanut oil, add the chilies and ground Sichuan peppercorns. Using a metal spatula, stir fry 15 seconds or until the chilies just begin to smoke (don't burn them - I've done it and it will burn your eyes like a mother-fucker). Push the chili mixture to the sides of the wok and carefully add the chicken, spreading in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed for 1 minute, letting the chicken begin to sear. Then stir-fry 1 minute (i.e. toss it around with your metal spatula) or until the chicken is lightly browned but not cooked through.
  4. Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil into the wok. Add the bell peppers and fry 1 minute or until the peppers begin to soften. Swirl the broth mixture into the wok and stir-fry 1 minute or until chicken is cooked through. Add peanuts (optional), scallions and sprinkle on the remaining 1 tsp sugar and 1/4 tsp salt. Stir fry about 30 seconds or until scallions are bright green. Serve hot over basmati or jasmine rice and enjoy!!

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