Kung Pao Chicken

My Facebook status last night read, “Is in the ‘recipe development’ zone.”  And indeed I was.  Unfortunately, neither of the recipes I’m developing have been actually, well, cooked.  Not to worry, they’re on the menu tonight, and you’ll get one of them tomorrow.  In the meantime, I was kind of bonking around in recipes I have actually cooked and found this one – and a very good one it is.

I don’t remember where I found the original recipe, which (as far as I can tell) was a fairly authentic version of Kung Pao Chicken.  The original recipe made use of cornstarch, soy sauce and vegetable oil and served over rice, so basically I tweaked it to eliminate those things I no longer eat, or eat very rarely – more or less a paleo version.  It’s also been quite awhile since I’ve made it, and looking over the recipe and photo I’m really wondering why because it’s delicious and fairly easy to make, despite the intimidating list of ingredients.

It’s interesting to note that for nearly 40 years, it was illegal to import Szechuan peppercorns to the U.S. because they were thought to carry citrus canker, a tree disease that can potentially harm citrus crops.  However, the ban was lifted in 2005 when new processing methods helped eliminate the threat and they are now available in this country.  Having said that, I’ve never seen them in any store, not even our tiny local Asian market, so while they are included in this recipe, their use it optional.  If you insist on authenticity, you can purchase Szechuan peppercorns online; of course, if you insist on authenticity it’s unlikely you’ll be making this version any time soon. 😛

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken

serves 4

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 4 to 6 ounces each

2 teaspoons tamari or wheat-free soy sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder

2 tablespoons tamari or wheat-free soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon raw honey

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 green onions, whites and tops, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on the bias
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
2 stalks celery, sliced
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns, optional
1/2 cup cashews
a few drops sesame oil, optional

Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes. Combine with the marinade ingredients, adding the arrowroot last. Marinate the chicken for 25 minutes.

While the chicken is marinating, prepare the vegetables and sauce: In a small bowl, combine the dark soy sauce, rice wine, and honey. Set aside.

Heat the wok over medium-high to high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken. Stir-fry until it turns white but still slightly pink in the center. Remove from the wok.

Add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and stir-fry until aromatic (about 30 seconds). Add the vegetables, red pepper flakes and the Szechuan peppercorns if using. Stir-fry briskly until the vegetables are tender-crisp, about 2 minutes.

Add the sauce to the wok. Bring to a boil. Add the chicken back into the pan. Stir in the cashews and the green onion, and continue stir-frying until the chicken is completely cooked through, another 30 seconds or so. Remove from the heat and stir in the sesame oil. Serve hot.

Nutrition (per serving): 459 calories, 24.2g total fat, 113.3mg cholesterol, 927.5mg sodium, 1069.6mg potassium, 17g carbohydrates, 3.1g fiber, 5.9g sugar, 42.6g protein.

Printable version (requires Adobe Reader)

Posted in participation of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday

10 thoughts on “Kung Pao Chicken”

  1. I love szechuan peppercorns for their “flowering” taste. Not a lot of people know about them, and their proper use. The trick is to flavor the cooking oil with them first, then add your chicken and vegetables. You want to have an intense, “flowery” flavor burst in your mouth, followed by the heat.
    One of the best dishes I ever ate was Flowering Fish. It was these white fish that was cooked in a bean sauce, then topped with the hot szechuan peppercorn oil. My mouth was burning, but I couldn’t stop eating it. It was that good!

  2. szechaun peppercorns give my mouth a weird feeling. it is hard to explain, almost numbing. luv kung pao. this seems like an easy recipe to reproduce.

  3. Ranch 99, baby! I should point you at some of the Chinese/Asian food I cook. You could tweak it. It would be better. All I can say is Nina Simons.

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