KUNG PO CHICKEN
Best of the Best Vol. 11
from the editors of Food & Wine
My China, Kylie Kwong
Although I have eaten several versions of Kung Po chicken in Chinese restaurants around the world, none of them prepared me for this lip-smacking authentic version. A mouth-watering combination of fried chicken cubes, chiles and peanuts dressed with soy sauce and black vinegar, Kung Po chicken (or gongbao jiding in Chinese, meaning "Governor's Diced Chicken") is named after a nineteenth-century Sichuanese governor.
Serves 4 to 6 as part of a shared meal
KUNG PO CHICKEN (gongbao jiding)
("Governor's Diced Chicken")
• 600 grams (1 pound 4 ounces) chicken thigh fillets, cut into 1-centimeter (1/2-inch) cubes
• 2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
• 2 tablespoons shao hsing wine
• 2 tablespoons peanut oil
• 10 small dried red chiles
• 2 tablespoons peanut oil, extra
• 5-centimeter (2-inch) piece ginger, cut into thin strips
• 1 tablespoon brown sugar
• 1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
• 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
• Pinch Sichuan pepper and salt
Combine chicken with cornflour and shao hsing wine in a bowl. Cover, place in refrigerator and leave to marinate for 1 hour.
Place oil and chiles in a cold wok and then turn heat to low. Cook for about 1½ minutes or until chiles begin to darken slightly. Using a slotted spoon, immediately remove chiles and drain on kitchen paper.
Leaving chile-infused oil in wok, turn heat up to high and stir-fry half the chicken cubes for 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add extra oil to wok with remaining chicken and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Return all chicken to wok, along with ginger and reserved chiles and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
Add sugar and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add peanuts, soy sauce and vinegar and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Serve immediately, sprinkled with Sichuan pepper and salt.
Editor's Note: Marinating ingredients in cornstarch and wine is a Chinese technique known as silkening. It gives food a tender, velvety texture.