Kung Pao Chicken w/ Cashews

Here is my easy/no fuss version of Kung Pao Chicken. I always though Kung Pao Chicken was just another one of those fake Chinese food dishes you get at those ubiquitous Asian fast food joints with the fat and fluffy ursine mascot. I believed this for most of my life, until the day I actually ORdered this dish from [insert panda themed restaurant name] and was like, “wait. my mom makes this.”

So yea. I’ll eat my own words. I guess this stuff is authentic after all.

Anyway, I believe stir fry purists would say you should 1) marinate for 30 min then cook the chicken until mostly done, remove. 2) heat oil back up again, add garlic, fresh ginger, and chilies to release the full flavors, then 3) add the chicken back in, the sauce, then the green onions, and lastly the nuts (my mother uses peanuts).

But MAN that sounds way too complicated. And after a long freaking day at work, I do NOT want to have to think about “what do I do next again?” Solution? Add everything into the marinade. Sure my mom still makes it better. But mine is FASTER. and with WHITE meat. JUICY white meat, I might add… because I marinate overnight instead of on the counter for 30 min (I chalk that tradition up to the fact that my ancestors did not have refrigerators and to let your chicken sit overnight is to kill your whole family w/ salmonella.)

So here goes. Kung Pao Chicken, simplified:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 lb chicken tenders
  • ~1/2+ cup soy sauce or enough to cover chicken
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1-2 tsp sesame oil
  • ~5 dried chili peppers, sliced diagonally
  • 1 tbs dark brown sugar
  • 1-2 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 tbs Chinese rice wine
  • optional: Chinese black vinegar (I had none. Didn’t miss it)
  • 2 talks green onion, chopped in 2 inch sections
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup roasted unsalted cashews
  • oil for stir frying (NOT olive oil. something with a high smoke point like peanut oil is better)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Cut chicken into small pieces, about 1 inch cube.
  2. In a deep container (I like to use glass tupperware) mix soy sauce, sugar, rice wine, sesame oil, ginger, chili peppers, and corn starch until thickened. Adjust to taste. Add chicken, cover, and marinate overnight (if using dark meat, 15-30 minutes is plenty. Overnight is if you want to make healthy crappy white meat juicier.).
  3. Heat a wok or large frying pan on high. Add oil and heat until shimmering. Add chicken and marinade. Stir until chicken is cooked through. Add green onions and cashews. Toss until green onions become fragrant (1 min or so). Remove from heat and serve.

Stir Fry Tips:

  1. Use a hot Guo1, or pot/wok. I mean HOT. Like smoking red hot. Then add oil and let it heat until shimmery. Always. Hot pot and hot oil = less crap sticking to your pan.
  2. Always add green onion last. You still want to stir fry it a bit to let the flavors release (you’ll be able to smell it when it does), but cook it any longer than absolutely necessary and you’ll get limp ugly green onion. Green onion should act as a garnish as well as an aromatic. It should be bright, green, and pretty.

Thank you, Mama Chen for teaching me well.

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