Although the snow has melted here, the weather continues to be cold and clammy. In Sichuan province in China, the answer to this is plenty of bold spicy food, such as Kung Pao chicken. It’s hot, a little sour, and has the tingle of Sichuan pepper. It helps pep up a wet gray day.
We hadn’t bought chicken breast meat for a really long time until we made this dish. We usually use chicken thighs for everything, being cheaper and less prone to become tough, but it was actually kind of fun to use white meat for a change. The marinade and the quick stirfry keep the meat tender.
Kung Pao Chicken
adapted from Land of Plenty by Fuchsia Dunlop
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 knob fresh ginger
- 5 scallions, white parts only
- 2 Tbsp oil
- handful dried red chiles
- 1 tsp Sichuan pepper (she calls for whole, but I prefer it ground)
- 2/3 cup roasted peanuts
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sherry
- 2 1/4 tsp cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp water
- 3 tsp sugar
- 1 1/8 tsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 3 tsp vinegar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp chicken stock or water
Cut the chicken into small cubes and combine with the marinade ingredients. Let it sit while you get everything else ready.
Thinly slice the garlic and ginger, cut the scallions into chunks, and cut the dried chiles in half with scissors and empty the seeds out.
Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Add the oil to a hot wok. Add the chiles and Sichuan pepper and stirfry until fragrant. Add the chicken. As the cubes begin to cook and separate, add the ginger, garlic and scallions. Fry until the chicken is just cooked through. Stir in the sauce and toss until it thickens and gives the dish a glossy look. Add the peanuts, mix and serve.
I like this sort of spicy meat dish with white rice and a big pile of stirfried greens, like bok choi. And lots of jasmine tea.