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 in 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.
Well, all that talking makes me feel hungry already. Before I go back to my beloved kitchen, I want to share with you this recipe for chicken shawarma, of the amazing great dishes in my collection of dinner ideas with chicken. Be sure to pay a visit and pin your favorite recipes. Have a great time cooking!
Kung Pao Chicken Recipe
- 8 dried chili pepper halved
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 10 oz chicken thigh cut into 1 inch cubes
- 12 oz bell pepper 2 medium, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 2 tbsp scallion chopped
- 1 tbsp garlic 3 cloves, chopped
- 1/2 tsp fresh ginger minced
- 2 tbsp rice wine
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp dark soy sauce
- 4 tsp hoisin sauce
- 4 tsp lite soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts
- Heat cast iron pan on medium-high heat, stir dry chilies for about 30 seconds and transfer them into a bowl.
- Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in the pan, add cubed chicken and fry on medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Stirring until the edges are golden brown. Remove from heat.
- Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in the pan, add bell pepper. Stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes until crisp-tender. Remove from heat.
- Add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil into the pan, stir in garlic and ginger. Then pour in rice wine, hoisin sauce, dark soy sauce, lite soy sauce, and sugar. Bring them to a boil while stirring. Once the sauce begins to thicken slightly, add the chicken and pepper back into the pan.
- Stir in rice vinegar, scallion, white pepper, and sesame oil. Toss well with unsalted peanuts for a further 1 minute.
- Serve immediately with cooked rice.