KUNG PAO CHICKEN
The Shun Lee Cookbook by Michael Tong
In Sichuan, during the mid-nineteenth century Qing Dynasty, there was a governor and court official named Ting, who was a famous gourmet. One story goes that the governor's chef was cooking this dish and accidentally burned the red chilies. His guests, perhaps out of politeness, all remarked on how delicious it was. In Mandarin, kung pao means "court official," so the dish came to be known as kung pao chicken. If anyone at your table is allergic to peanuts, eliminate them.
Makes 4 servings
• 12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
• 1 large egg white, beaten until foamy
• 1 teaspoon cornstarch
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 cup rice wine or dry sherry
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 teaspoon cornstarch
• Vegetable oil, for passing through, plus 2 tablespoons
• 6 scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces (1 cup)
• 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
• 10 small dried hot red chilies
• 1½ teaspoons hot bean sauce
• 1/2 cup salted roasted peanuts
• 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1. Mix the chicken, egg white, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. To begin the sauce, mix the rice wine, soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar in a small bowl, and set it aside. Dissolve the cornstarch in 2 tablespoons cold water in another small bowl, and set it aside.
3. Heat a large wok over high heat. Add enough vegetable oil to come about 1½ inches up the sides of the wok, and heat it to 325°F. Add the chicken pieces, one at a time so the pieces don't splash or stick to each other, and stir gently, keeping the pieces of chicken separate and cooking until they turn white, about 45 seconds. Using a wide wire-mesh strainer, transfer the chicken to a colander to drain. Discard the oil from the wok. Wipe out the wok with paper towels.
4. Place the wok over medium-high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and heat until it is shimmering. Add the scallions, garlic, chilies, and hot bean sauce, and stir-fry until the scallions wilt, about 30 seconds. Return the chicken to the wok, add the rice wine mixture, and stir-fry until the chicken is heated through, about 30 seconds. Add the cornstarch mixture and stir until the sauce thickens, a few seconds more. Add the peanuts and sesame oil, and mix well. Serve immediately.