Kung Pao Chicken – all the way from Shandong!

Kung Pao chicken or Gong bao jiding was Ding Baozhen’s most favorite dish. Originally a Sichuan dish, prepared with lot of peanuts and tender chicken was named after Ding Baozhen’s official title as ‘Gong bao jiding’ or Kung Pao chicken, to honor him. Great, he had such an amazing chef!  Man, it’s such a hard name to pronounce. But I admire his pure heart! He was a nice person.

Now, who is this Ding Baozhen’s?! He was the Head of Shandong province during the period from 1866 to 1876. The people of China had great admiration for Ding Baozhen, who served his tenure to help the community, truthfully and efficiently. That’s the story behind the name of this delicious dish. Quite amazing, isn’t it.

Kung pao chicken-08

Today, Kung Pao chicken has become a very popular Chinese dish almost everywhere. We love the spicy and aromatic yet simple dish that can be easily prepared in your kitchen. But, wait. I’ve to say some more… It still remains one of the star items on the take out lists. The concept of merging two unlikely ingredients seems quite intriguing. In fact the duo appeared to be a perfect match. Just as it looked, it tasted delicious, too. The hot chili flavor and roasted peanuts in a chicken dish is a nice harmony. That’s the fact that bought me instantly.

Preparing the same dish in the comfort of our own kitchen is quite a pleasant deal if you manage to put together certain core techniques as Chinese do – their quaint techniques in stirring and tossing and such. The vegetables we add should be tender and crisp; well balanced sweet and sour taste etc. See what happens next. The smooth and delicate chicken in dark brown velvety sauce and a generous amount of roasted peanuts and the smoky whole red chilies were a perfect marriage.

Marinate -2 cups of boneless skinless chicken, tenderized and cut into 1 inch cubes
All purpose flour 2 tbsp
Soy sauce – 1 tbsp
Combine together and set aside. Prepare the rest of the ingredients.

For the sauce
Chicken stock – 3 tbsp
Corn flour – 2 tbsp
Soy sauce – 2 tbsp
Rice vinegar – 1 tbsp
Sugar – 1 tsp
Garlic – 1 tbsp finely minced
Combine everything. Check the consistency and do the adjustments.

Other ingredients
Oil – 2-3 tbsp
Dry red chilies – 2-3
Julienned ginger -2 tbsp
1-2 stalk chopped scallion
1/2 cup of roasted peanuts

As for roasting peanuts: You could roast peanuts in the oven. Or if you try it using a pan, I would rather use a thick bottomed pan. Throw the peanuts in. Keep stirring until you get the nice aroma. Turn the heat off. Allow it to cool down completely. Its 50/50 process – half part in the heat and the other part away from the heat! Spray oil to get a glossy texture.

Deep fry the chicken pieces. Do not leave it in the oil for long to get it cooked through. Rather remove it once the chicken is cooked yet tender and turned the color changes to white. Set aside the fried pieces.

Heat the wok medium to high heat with 2 tbsp oil. Add dry chili pieces. Stir-fry the chilies until they are crisp and dark in color. Add julienned ginger; give it a quick stir until its aromatic. Add the cooked chicken pieces back into the wok, give a quick stir. Add the roasted peanuts. Give a quick stir one more time. Now add the sauce to the mixture.  Mix gently until everything has combined well. Add the chopped scallions. Turn off the heat. Serve hot.

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