What is Kung Pao Chicken?
Kung Pao Chicken is from the Sichuan province in China. The Chinese name is 宫保鸡丁 (gong bao ji ding) but some restaurants spell it as Gong Bao Chicken or Kung Po Chicken.
This is a spicy chicken dish with a mouthwatering Kung Pao Sauce. It is popular at Chinese takeouts or restaurants here in the United States.
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Is Kung Pao Chicken Authentic?
Authentic recipe calls for Sichuan peppercorn for the numbing flavor and loads of dried red chilies for the “mala” (spicy and numbing) flavors.
The Americanized version we get here is not authentic but delicious.
Vegetables such as carrots, water chestnuts, celery, zucchini and broccoli are part of the dish.
Kung Pao Sauce
Kung Pao Sauce is the soul of Kung Pao Chicken. The sauce is brown in color, mildly spicy and dangerously addictive. It tastes salty, sweet and vinegary.
The secret ingredient is Chinese black (dark) vinegar and below is the list of ingredients of the sauce:
- Soy sauce
- Dark soy sauce
- Corn Starch
The spiciness of Kung Pao Chicken comes from the dried red chilies in the stir-fry and not from the sauce. You may use rice vinegar, red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar for equally delicious results.
How Do You Make Kung Pao Chicken
This is a stir-fry chicken dish in a work or skillet. First, you cook the ginger and garlic with heated oil, then you add the dried red chilies to bring out the spiciness.
Add the chicken, peanuts and the Kung Pao Sauce and cook until the chicken is done.
Tips on How to Stir-Fry Kung Pao Chicken
- Heat the wok or skillet before stir-frying.
- Cut the chicken into uniform pieces so they cook evenly.
- Prepare the Kung Pao Sauce in advance by mixing all the ingredients together.
- The spatula plays an active role in stir-frying so use it to continuously stir and toss the ingredients in a back and forth, circular, turning and flipping motions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the Meaning of Kung Pao?
Kung Pao or Gong Bao derived from Chinese words 宫保。According to Baike, a Chinese online encyclopedia, the dish was invented by a Sichuan General Ding Baozhen.
He loved chicken and peanut in a spicy sauce, and hence he created the recipe.
The name Kung Pao came from his honorary title and hence the name origin of this famous dish.
How Many Calories is this Recipe?
This is a healthy recipe and only 360 calories. Serve the chicken with steamed rice, fried rice or noodles.
What Dishes to Serve with this Recipe?
For a wholesome Chinese dinner, make the following dishes.
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- 12 oz boneless & skinless chicken breasts
- 3 tablespoons roasted peanuts
- 6-8 dried red chilies, seeded and cut into halves
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 5 slices peeled fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced diagonally
- 1 stalk scallion, cut into rings
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese Shaoxing rice wine (optional)
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Cut the chicken meat into small cubes, rinse in water, pat dry with paper towels and marinate with the ingredients above for 30 minutes.
- Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat up a wok with one tablespoon of oil and stir-fry the marinated chicken until they are 70% cook. Dish out and set aside. Clean the wok and add in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until it's fully heated. Add in the ginger and garlic slices and do a quick stir before adding in the dried red chilies.
- Stir fry the dried red chilies until aromatic and smell spicy, then add in the chicken meat. Do a few quick stirs before adding in the roasted peanuts. Add the sauce and stir continuously until the chicken meat is nicely coated with the sauce. Add in the scallions, stir to combine well with the chicken, dish out and serve immediately with steamed rice.
Watch the cooking video on this page for step-by-step guide.
If you like shrimp, you can check out my Kung Pao Shrimp recipe.
You may use rice vinegar, red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar in lieu of Chinese black vinegar.
As different soy sauce tastes differently and has different level of sodium so please adjust the saltiness accordingly. If the sauce tastes too salty, add some more sugar and water. If it's not salty, add a little salt to taste.
Amount Per Serving Calories 360Total Fat 23gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 20gCholesterol 73mgSodium 872mgCarbohydrates 9gFiber 5gSugar 2gProtein 29g