Kung Pao chicken! What is it? I don't know. This is one of those foods that I only seem to remember when I'm trying to stay away from General Tso's. General Tso's is too unhealthy; fried chicken, grease, and sugar all glopped together. Kung Pao is my 'healthy' alternative. And it's absolutely delicious.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Total cooking time: 30 minutes
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs , trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch pieces
(NOTE: Vegetarians can replace the chicken with one pound extra-firm tofu sliced into 1-inch cubes.)
1 tablespoon dry sherry or rice wine
2 teaspoons soy sauce
3 medium cloves garlic , pressed through garlic press or minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 inch piece fresh ginger , peeled and minced (about 2 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts or cashews
6 small whole dried red chiles (each about 1 3/4 to 2 inches long), 3 chiles roughly crumbled, or 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons black rice vinegar or plain rice vinegar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 medium red bell pepper , cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 medium scallions , sliced thin
And - last, but not least - RICE.
Now, some of the other ingredients might not be in your house. Chances are, you might not want to go to the store to buy them, either. The good news is, with all the garlic and ginger and red chiles going on, you really aren't going to taste some of the subtle flavors provided by, say, oyster sauce. A few helpful hints:
* For sherry or rice wine, you can substitute more or less any cooking wine. Really; it's not like you're going to be able to taste it.
* Hoisin sauce has a very, very unique taste, so I really wouldn't recommend substituting. It's good stuff. But in a pinch, you can mix equal parts ketchup and molasses and add that. This is basically asian barbeque sauce, so I'd imagine real barbeque sauce might also work. But with all the artificial hickory flavoring in there, you might end up with smokey kung pao, and where would you be then?
* Oyster sauce: Try adding two teaspoons soy sauce and upping your cornstarch to two teaspoons.
* Rice vinegar: I used some topaz hibiscus vinegar given as a gift by my sister-in-law! Any white-wine vinegar will also do.
Ready? On with the show.
Before you do ANYTHING else, prep your ingredients. You should always do all your slicing and reading before you even turn on a burner, but even moreso when it comes to stir fries. When you stir fry, everything comes together very very fast, and before you know it, you're either eating or dealing with a major catastrophe. Be prepared so that you can be eating instead of ... treating... disaster? I'm never going to be able to write motivational posters.
So - chop your chicken into one inch pieces:
Disgusting, isn't it? Remember what I said: WASH EVERYTHING. Your mom's probably told you that already. I went ahead and got a new knife and new cutting board at this point before starting on the rest.
And, last but not least, slice up your red bell pepper into half inch squares and thinly slice your green onions. Oh, the places you'll go.
Everything's ready, right?
Now, preheat your skillet or wok to medium high, and add a TABLESPOON of oil. High heat, if you can manage it. We have a smoke alarm that goes crazy when it gets a whiff of smoke, so I have to tone it down. No, there's no way to take it off the wall. It's like soldered onto the wall. It is my nemesis.
When the oil is hot - just starting to smoke - add the chicken. Move it JUST enough so that it's touching the bottom, and then let it sit for two minutes.
Don't touch it! Let it brown. I know, you want to stir it. Don't do it. Let it get brown and delicious. Like this!
Doesn't that look nice? When two minutes is up, flip the chicken to the other side, and flip another minute and a half.
Now, add the nuts and hot peppers.
You can feel free to stir this around to your heart's content. Let it get nice and fragrant and a little brown; about 40 seconds.
Take all of this out and put it in a bowl and return your pan to the heat. Here's what it'll look like!
Oh boy!!! We're almost there. Add another TABLESPOON of oil to your pan and wait a few seconds, and then add your red bell pepper. FRY IT! Fry it up. I like it a little browned; about a minute.
Now, move the peppers around so you have a little space in the middle of the pan and add the ginger / garlic mix.
Mash it all against the bottom of the pan for the next 10 seconds, then mix it into the red bell pepper! Wow, that smells good.
Stir your broth and add it to the pan. It'll start to thicken immediately. Toss in the chicken and nuts and cook another 45 seconds.
Once it's thick and amazing, remove from heat and stir in the green onions. You're done. It's spectacular. Taste for salt and sugar and serve over rice.
Rebecca's take: YUM YUM. I like pretty much everything about this, and that's coming from a picky eater and someone who's not really big into eating meat! I can't say no to Kung Pao Chicken - it tastes amazing.