Kung Pao Chicken, which consists of wok fried chicken pieces, tangy herbs and most specifically worth mentioned – the vital sapid spicy sauce, is absolutely a true well-known Chinese cuisine mainstay.
Why is it called “Kung Pao Chicken”?
Kung Pao Chicken, which originally named Gōngbǎo Jīdīng (宫保鸡丁), was descended from Sichuan, a southwest province in China.
Kung Pao is said to be an innovation of Din Bao Zhen, a governor-general of Sichuan Province under Emperor Guangxu rule. From a home dish of the Din’s family, Gongbao Jiding soon diffused rapidly in locals.
After Din Bao Zhen passed away, he was honored by the government for his remarkable achievements throughout years on active duty. His honorary is one of the “Gong Bao” titles provided that time. That’s why the very genuine chicken that he had created before was also named after that.
Is Kung Pao Chicken the same as General Tso Chicken?
No, not at all.
Kung Pao Chicken is originally an authentic Chinese dish, that was westernized later when introduced into the US. Therefore, it is sure much older than General Tso’s Chicken.
Poles apart from Kung Pao, General Tso was actually rooted in the Upper East side of the US (New York City), then spread out among Chinese restaurants all across America in those 1980s. That should make some sense as General Tso’s Chicken is pretty popular here. I suppose everybody who’s been at a Chinese food store in this country could also have bumped into it once.
Pretty much a surprising fact: At the first place, the native Chinese didn’t know a thing about how General Tso’s Chicken was generated – at least not until US chefs bring it to China.
Both of these two require boneless chicken cut into cubes or small pieces. But distinct from the unique hot and spicy flavor of Kung Pao, General Tso is much sweeter and less spicy, and of course, with a brighter-colored sticky sauce (often more orange-ish than Kung Pao’s dark brown sauce). There’s also no peanut in General Tso’s Chicken ever.
What is in the Kung Pao sauce?
Originally, Sichuan pepper, soy sauce and hoisin sauce are the most common leading ingredients to enhance Kung Pao’s one-off flavor. But after westernized, Kung Pao Chicken came out with many more variations. Sichuan pepper is swapped out for prevalent domestic ingredients such as zucchini or red/green bell pepper (which I used in this recipe). As a result, the dish (or more like, the sauce) tastes much less spicy but sweeter in contrast. Feel free to check out the below ingredient list of mine for more details.
Unlike some sweetly glazed Western dishes like Honey butter chicken, Kung Pao, on the other hand, is a combination of sweet and sour tasting. It’s starchy and a bit intense at the tip of your tongue but not too spicy, bringing out a great balancing taste to hook people up for a sure deal.
Of course it’s not out of line to eat it on its own. But in my opinion, though toned down quite a lot in comparison to the original, Kung Pao Chicken is still a bit too edgy to walk the way alone. Anyhow, siding it with steamed white rice, plainly cooked quinoa or a veggie salad is not too much of a venture trial sometime, right?
What makes Kung Pao Chicken different than regular stir-fried chickens?
So I’ve seen people who equate Chinese foods with all the oily stuffs. My advice is – get that off, because now we grab the wok. Deep-frying no more.
As said, Kung Pao Chicken is the pick in Chinese culinary repertoire thanks to the substantial contribution of the sauce base.
“Chicken” it is, but spices can not be taken negligibly here. Together with a few splashes of herbs like scallions, garlic and ginger, Kung Pao merely has the notorious qualities of Chinese cuisine.
While chilli furnishes the final touch of heat for the dish, the great balance between the ingredients is actually what foregrounds it all.
How to make Kung Pao Chicken
Kung Pao Chicken Recipe
Yield 2 servings
If you or your dining mates can't stand its considerable tanginess, slinging in more veggies might help flatten the flavor a little bit. Broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy or carrots are nice choices here. After all, it takes no guts to go for a new alteration, you think?
For chicken breasts frying:
- 1/2 pound chicken breasts (sliced into 1-inch cubes)
- 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/4 tbsp oyster sauce
- 3/4 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
For the sauce:
- 1/8 tbsp white pepper
- 2 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
For the veggies frying:
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp ginger, minced
- 1/4 cup peanut
- 1/2 tbsp honey
- 2 scallions (white and green parts separated, thinly sliced)
- 1/2 red bell pepper
- 1/2 green bell pepper
- 1/2 tbsp chilli powder
- 1 tbsp roasted black sesame
How to Make
Step 1. Fry the chicken
- Combine chicken cubes with 1/2 tbsp soy sauce, 1/4 tbsp oyster sauce and 3/4 tbsp cornstarch. Mix them all thoroughly in a medium bowl. Let sit 10-15 minutes at room temperature.
- Preheat your wok (better a non-stick one) with 1 tbsp vegetable oil. Add the marinated chicken breasts, cook and stir until golden brown in every side (approximately 10 minutes in high heat). Set aside.
If your kitchen happens to not having a wok around, using a regular frying pan or saucepan is totally fine.
Step 2. Fry the veggies
- Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in medium-high heat. Add garlic, ginger and scallion whites. Fry for 3 minutes until aromatic, or when the garlic turns light brown.
- Add 1/2 tbsp chili powder, red and green bell pepper to the wok and cook over medium heat in 5 minutes (check if they're more tender).
- Add peanut, honey and sesame, stir for another 30-second.
- Return the cooked chicken breasts to the wok.
Step 3: Combine the chicken with the sauce
- Continue to pour in all the ingredients for the sauce to the frying wok in succession: sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, white pepper, sugar. Stir for a minute.
- In another bowl, combine water with cornstarch then whisk until the cornstarch is completely dissovled, then pour the mixture into the frying wok.
- Stir everything together. Normally, it only takes about a minute for the sauce to be thicken. That’s also when the chicken is coated evenly in the sweet brown sauce.
- Pour in the scallion greens and give everything one final stir to make sure the remaining ingredients are well combined.
Remember to stir constantly every time there are new ingredients added.
Step 4. Serve
- Remove the wok from heat. Dish out, garnish with sesame seeds or black pepper, and serve immediately.
Serving Size 1 cup
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Total Fat 17.76 g
Saturated Fat 3.28 g
Unsaturated Fat 12.8 g
Cholesterol 60.4 mg
Sodium 1566 mg
Total Carbohydrates 27.72 g
Dietary Fiber 6.6 g
Sugars 3.64 g
Protein 29.6 g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.