Kung Pao Chicken is one of the most widely recognized of dishes in Western Chinese restaurants, but it’s actually an authentic, traditional dish from the Szechuan Province – unlike a lot of other restaurant menu offerings, which were invented to satisfy the Western palate.
There are a number of variations made with different vegetables, but they’ll always contain the primary ingredients: cubed chicken, peppers and peanuts.
Its taste will vary a bit depending on where it’s made. At home in Szechuan, it will be spicier than dishes prepped elsewhere, with Chinese cooks using local (and very hot) peppers and peppercorns. Outside of its native region, the heat backs off a little, or sometimes a lot.
Easy to make and with a short cooking time, you can be creating authentic Chinese cuisine in your own kitchen in no time. And, it’s easily adaptable to variations made with prawns or tofu, for a slight change in flavor and texture.
Serve with fried rice, lightly steamed vegetables, and green tea.
This recipe includes Szechuan peppercorns. You should know that these aren’t really peppercorns. Instead, they’re a husk from the Chinese prickly ash bush.
It has a unique fragrance, but its real claim to fame is the numbing sensation it creates around the mouth, which allows the diner to enjoy the full, fruity flavor of the capsicum in the chili peppers – another Szechuan staple.
Szechuan Pepper Tin available on Amazon.
Not readily available in most grocery stores today, if you’re having a hard time finding a source, you may need to make a trip to an Asian market. It’s also called Flower Pepper, Chinese Pepper, Dried Prickly Ash and a few other names, but the best bet is to ask for it by its Chinese name – Hua Jiao. The shopkeepers will know what you’re asking for.
And, you can also find sources online, including Amazon.
Also, a good vegetable peeler will make things sooo much easier when it comes time to tackle the ginger root. Trust me, if you’ve always used el cheapos, then try a good peeler. They’re not very expensive, and you’ll thank yourself every time you use it.
About Lorna Kring
Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.