Kung Pao Chicken Recipe

Almost every Chinese restaurant serves some version of Kung Pao Chicken. Most, in my opinion, miss the mark They tend to rely on thick, brown sauce with some spice added and a mélange of various vegetables. I feel that a truly excellent Kung Pao should be much more distinctive. The peanuts should be very fresh. The major ingredients should not be swimming in sauce, but rather flavored by the sauce. I actually use no vegetables except the scallions. The result is a Kung Pao that will knock your socks off with great flavor and texture.

Ingredients:

1 egg white, beaten
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
2 ½ cups of vegetable oil for deep frying
1 Tablespoon of Szechwan sweet bean sauce
1 Tablespoon of Hoisin sauce
2 Tablespoons of soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon hot chili pepper seeds, or more for heat
2 Tablespoons of dry white wine
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup blanched peanuts
8 scallions, cut into 1 inch lengths, on the diagonal

Directions:

In a bowl, combine the beaten egg white and the cornstarch.
Add the chicken and stir to coat, then stir in 1Tablespoon oil.
Let stand for 30 minutes.
While the chicken is marinating, heat a wok or wide frying pan over medium high heat with ½ cup of vegetable oil.
Add the peanuts and stir continuously until the peanuts are light brown. Remove them to a colander.
Re-heat the wok or wide frying pan over medium high heat.
Add 2 cups of oil.
When the oil is hot, add the chicken, stirring to separate.
Cook the chicken until opaque, about 2 minutes.
Lift out the chicken and set aside on paper towels to drain.
In the wok, over high heat, combine the bean sauce, Hoisin sauce, pepper seeds, wine and sugar.
Heat through for about 1 minute, then add the chicken.
Stir and heat through.
Add the peanuts and scallions.
Stir quickly for only about 30 seconds.
Serve immediately with steamed rice.

A less caloric suggestion: After the chicken has been cooked, put it in a colander and rinse off the oil under warm water.

This entire dish can be made with thinly sliced sirloin steak and with blanched almonds in place of peanuts. If beef is to be used, it should be sliced into thin slices about 1 ½ inches in length, then marinated for an hour. in 2 Tablespoons light soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon sesame oil and 1 tablespoon corn starch before being sautéed.

About Rabbi Michael Sternfield

Michael Sternfield has been a Reform rabbi for 40 years, most recently serving at Chicago Sinai Congregation from 1995 until 2013. He served for 20 years as spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego, and briefly as the leader of the Durban, South Africa Progressive Jewish Congregation during South Africa’s historic transition to multi-racial democracy. He is now based in Los Angeles, California.