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Kung Pao Shopping Tips
Staples of Asian cuisine such as ginger, daikon, rice vinegar, and spicy chile sauces like Sriracha add bright, fresh flavors without lots of fuss.
Kung Pao Cooking Tips
Sriracha has good heat but also has flavor - its mild sweetness comes from sun-ripened chile peppers as well as sugar and garlic.
Kung Pao Sauce
Kung pao sauce is one of the popular home style stir fry sauces in Szechuan cuisine. Making perfect kung pao sauce at home is simple but not an easy task. This is elaine’s detailed guide about how to prepare a kung pao sauce and apply it on your preferred vegetables and ingredients.
Kung pao sauce has two layers of flavor, one is from spices and the other one is from a balance via soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Firstly, we fry garlic, ginger and scallion with dried red pepper. This taste is called as “胡辣味”，which means fried chili pepper taste. To get this unique taste, the dried chili pepper should be fried until dark red. Some restaurants add un-fried red chili pepper to add some red color but they cannot bring the right flavor.
The second layer is a balanced sauce made from sugar, vinegar and soy sauce with starch. Starch works as a thickener and help the sauce sticking to the ingredient.
Important ingredients introductions
Leek onion (大葱) is a popular aromatic ingredient for lots of Chinese stir fries and soups. Comparing with green onion, leek onion provides a stronger flavor. We usually use the white part and discard the very green part and then cut them into sections around 1.5 cm in thickness. I love to keep half of the leek onion sections to the last step and fry them with chili pepper and Szechuan peppercorn.
Szechuan pepper and dried chili pepper : Szechuan peppercorn (花椒) and dried red chili pepper are the two soul ingredients for this dish. It should be a slightly numbing with a gentle touch of hotness. We have three types of dried red pepper used in Sichuan cuisine, but the most popular choice for Kung pao chicken is that small and thin pepper.
The mischievous factor of this sauce is the amount of sugar. I usually add more sugar with protein dishes but use only use half of the sugar in vegetable kong pao dishes like cauliflower, lotus root and mushrooms. Because vegetables and mushrooms have nature sweetness.
Stir wine, cornstarch, and 1 Tbsp. soy sauce in a medium bowl set marinade aside.
Stir vinegar, hoisin sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and remaining 2 tsp. soy sauce in a small bowl set sauce aside.
Remove leaves and cut cauliflower into medium florets. Trim woody end of stalk and discard, then cut stalk into ½"-thick pieces. Heat 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a wok or large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Cook cauliflower, tossing occasionally, until browned in places and beginning to soften, 7–9 minutes. Give reserved marinade a stir to reincorporate cornstarch and add cauliflower to bowl toss to coat. Toss occasionally while you cook the bacon.
Reduce heat to medium. Cook bacon and remaining 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in wok, stirring often, until bacon is browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Add dried chiles and peppercorns and cook, tossing, just until fragrant (be careful not to burn), about 30 seconds. Transfer bacon, chiles, and peppercorns to a plate, leaving bacon drippings behind.
Return cauliflower to wok with a slotted spoon discard excess marinade. Cook cauliflower, tossing occasionally, until charred in spots and crisp-tender (short of scorching it, don’t worry about letting it go pretty dark), 8–10 minutes. Add scallion whites, serrano chile, ginger, garlic, peanuts, and reserved sauce and cook, tossing often, until fragrant and cauliflower is tender, about 2 minutes. Add bacon mixture and cook, tossing, just until sauce coats cauliflower, about 1 minute season with salt.
Transfer to a platter and top with scallion greens. Serve with rice alongside.
How would you rate Kung Pao Cauliflower?
I’m a fan! As other reviewers have said recommend roasting the cauliflower (I definitely could not have fit it all raw in my cast iron, certainly not without steaming), doubling the sauce (honestly probably the marinade too), and I don’t think it tastes like what I’m used to as “kung pao” but I still thought it was tasty. I wish I had cut my florets twice bite size as I cut them bite size and they shrunk to tiny. Also recommend upping the peanuts because peanuts are wonderful. I cooked this with bacon but one of my favorite ways to sub in for bacon bits/grease if I am cooking for vegetarians or vegans is to cut a shallot into rings, fry those rings until brown and crisp in veggie oil, then use that cooking oil as the grease. The flavor profile is not the same but it has a satisfying crunch and savoriness to it that I love. I think that would work really well here if you need a bacon sub. I believe my use of that technique also originally came from another bon appetit recipe - something like barley herby mushroom salad - that I adore.
Followed what other commenters had done - roasted my cauliflower instead of the first cook in a cast iron skillet or wok, paid particular attention to the usage of sauce vs marinade. These both helped. Good flavors and textures
Delicious! However, after cleaning the cauliflower and drying it, I tossed it in veg oil and roasted it in a 450* oven (bottom rack - preheat the sheet pan). I cooked it until it was nicely charred
30 minutes. After cooking the cauliflower, I tossed it with the marinade then warmed it through and completed the recipe as written for the other parts.
This is a great recipe. The bacon is just enough to give it a satisfying savory/meaty element. We loved it. I had to substitute Mirin for the Chinese rice wine and jalapeño for the serrano, which worked nicely too.
Will definitely make this again, absolutely loved it. I substituted the bacon for 1 finely chopped onion which worked well. However I didn't really get the dried chilis bit, and didn't understand they needed to be put in whole and didn't have any to hand so I wrongly substituted an extra 2 chopped chilis in and ended up with a very very spicy dish. Cleared up all the blocked up noses in the house though! Apart from that, I'll definitely make it again without the above error, as the sauce had so much flavour and the cauliflower texture was absolutely fantastic.
Mmmm good flavor and texture! For a vegetarian, I was excited to see a veggie alternative to kung pao chicken. I skipped the bacon and had to make some substitutions - white wine for the chinese rice wine, and red wine vinegar for the sherry vinegar. The Serrano chile was very spicy when raw so I wimped out and only put a small amount (about a teaspooon diced) in the actual dish. It was very tasty and not too spicy at all, so maybe I'll put a little more next time. The only thing I would change is to double or triple the sauce amount, but that's just me- love the extra sauce, especially when serving over rice. Enjoy!
My gosh. so easy and so good. Used potato starch and red wine vinegar, as that's all I had in the pantry, with great results. If you're going to half the recipe as I did, I recommend not changing the marinade volume although everything else worked a treat when halved :)
We really enjoyed this stir fry. I didn't think it tasted like Kung Pao.
Made this tonight and considered hiding it and making something else for the family so I wouldn't have to share! Best kung-pao sauce! Had no problem following recipe-prepping ahead is a must. Will definitely make this again and will maybe share with the family. Maybe.
I have not made it but I was just wondering if you think that this is a dish that would be good to keep for a few days and reheat.
This was the best stir fry I've ever made. I went light on the peppers and also added green beans. I did not find the directions confusing - the marinade is made in a medium bowl, which will fit the cauliflower, and the sauce is made in a small bowl.
Made this last night. The flavor was great, but I wish the cauliflower came out more crisp. I left it on for about 12-14 minutes to get nice and brown, but adding the sauce made it soft and a bit too oily for my liking. Next time I'll add snow peas or bok choy for some green and pour the sauce over the top before serving. For those having trouble figuring out the recipe, just make note of when they say "sauce" vs "marinade".
Made this tonight. very flavorful, and now that I've done it once, I know what not to do next time. Really want to get a good carmelization on that cauliflower before putting the sauce in. mine had a nice color on about half, but after adding the sauce, it began to steam. Still delicious, just not the texture I would have preferred on the cauliflower. I think I'm going to cheat next time (since I made it sans bacon, vegetarian style) and cornflour/deep fry the cauliflower next time. Thanks for the recipe!
Hi, looks like a great recipe. You need to write the instructions more clearly please as it's hard to follow as the other have said - when to marinate, drain, when to add the sauce? Secondly, could you do this with broccoli as I have cauliflower rice. Thank you
Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
It was a bit hard to follow the instructions- was not really clear when to add the marinade and when the other sauce. Apart from that great recipe!
FAQ About Kung Pao Sauce
What Is Kung Pao Sauce?
Kung Pao Sauce is the sauce for Kung Pao Chicken. Kung Pao Chicken is a famous Chinese dish at home and abroad. It is not only the Sichuan cuisine but also the Shandong cuisine, Guizhou cuisine. But there are some difference between the different style. The origin of this dish is from Ding Bao Zhen who was Sichuan governor in Qing dynasty.
Kung Pao Chicken chooses the chicken as the main ingredient and also use the peanuts, pepper.
What Is Kung Pao Sauce Made Of?
What Does This Sauce Taste Like?
This sauce taste like the mixture of sweet, sour, spicy.
Is The Sauce Spicy?
The two critical ingredients in making a great kung pao sauce are dry red pepper and green prickleyash. While most recipes require that these two ingredients be ground or flaky, using the ingredients whole makes the sauce to have a unique fragrance. But both of them are not very spick. They just take the unique taste for the chicken. But if you want the sauce less spicy, please use less dry red pepper.
Kung Pao Sauce Vs General Tso Sauce?
We had made the General Tso Sauce before, you can see it here.
Hope this kung pao sauce from scratch help you to make the homemade sauce yourself. If you have problem about this sauce, please let me know.
Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts
May yesterday go down in history as the day that I spent twenty-five dollars on Brussels sprouts. I didn’t mean to do it! I knew I needed plenty of sprouts in case I encountered another recipe failure. The sprouts were packed in big bags, so I grabbed two and continued on to the green onions. That’s how they get you—with those big, pre-packed bags.
Then, I was a terrible customer and read email during check-out and didn’t even notice until I glanced at the receipt at home. Twenty-five hard-earned dollars! Who am I? The sprouts weren’t even good sprouts. I’ve been robbed.
My only consolation is that my sprouts turned out great on my next try, so I have extra sprouts for later. This Kung Pao Brussels sprouts dish is my take on a popular Chinese stir-fry recipe, Kung Pao chicken. I roasted my Brussels sprouts and tossed them in a completely irresistible, spicy soy-honey glaze with green onions and peanuts. It’s a stellar vegetarian appetizer or side dish, and I wouldn’t judge if you wanted to eat it for dinner on its own.
This recipe has actually been ten months in the making. I became completely enamored with the concept when I found it in the pages of Bon Appetit’s February issue, but when I cooked their version in our Austin kitchen, I was disappointed. It was crazy salty and just generally not awesome (sorry, Bon Appetit!). I gave it a couple more shots and eventually gave up.
Fast forward to December and I’m craving more roasted Brussels sprouts. I remembered the Kung Pao sprouts and wondered if I couldn’t come up with a similar, less salty and way more tasty version, based on my roasted Brussels sprouts with crispy baked tofu dish. It’s one of my favorite recipes, so I played around with it and here we are.
My version is, admittedly, pretty far from traditional Kung Pao chicken. I roasted the sprouts instead of stir frying them (too many sprouts for one pan) and omitted the Sichuan peppercorns (where do you find those?). It is awesome, though!
HOW SPICY IS KUNG PAO CHICKEN RECIPE?
Kung Pao Chicken is meant to have a kick from chilies, ginger and garlic. That being said, it is very EASY to customize the heat of this recipe.
- MILD KUNG PAO CHICKEN: Stir fry 15 Thai chili peppers without cuttings any of them open (and of course, don’t eat the whole chilies!). This will produce mild Kung Pao Chicken that will probably be too mild and taste like it’s missing something – which is heat! You can add heat by adding chili sauce, red pepper flakes or seeds from some of the chilies.
- MODERATE KUNG PAO CHICKEN: Stir fry 15 Thai chili peppers without cuttings any of them open and seeds from 5 additional chilies, or more to taste. To add the seeds, simply cut the dried chilies open and shake the seeds out. You can also add additional seeds after you’ve tasted the finished dish if it’s not spicy enough or add seeds to individual servings.
- SPICY KUNG PAO CHICKEN: Stir fry the Kung Pao Chicken with the 15 whole Thai chilies but instead of adding seeds from 5 chilies, add more to taste. I would say 10 chilies adds a nice kick of heat but is not crazy spicy. For super spicy, use seeds from more than 10 chilies. Of course, you can always start with less and add more to taste.
***If you aren’t sure how spicy you want to make your Kung Pao Chicken, start with less chili seeds and sprinkle in more after to taste after the dish is complete. It’s easy to add heat, but it’s hard to take away!
Authentic Kung Pao Chicken
Kung Pao Chicken (宫保鸡丁) in Chinese is a stir-fried dish with chicken cubes, dried chili pepper and deep-fried peanuts. The tender taste of the chicken matches great with the crispy peanuts with a combined sweet, sour and spicy taste.
Background of the dish
The name of Kung Pao comes from a court official Ding Baozhen in Qing dynasty. The hero official Ding is a foodie who especially loves stir-fried diced chicken. During the time of being served as governor in Sichuan province, he frequently treats his guest with this dish and add dried chili peppers because People in Sichuan loves to eat hot chili. Later on, he is granted the title Taizi Shaobao also known as Kung Pao, which means the protector of the crown price. People name this dish after him to memory him.In China, chefs usually use chicken thighs to make this dish rather than boneless chicken breasts. The meat of thighs is tenderer but requires more about the cutting skills.
I made this world wide famous Kung Pao chicken every month. I know that it is all loved Chinese food by people around the world. The aroma bought by the combination of chili pepper flakes and Sichuan peppercorn is so fragrant. Kung Pao series dish is considered as one of the most popular one in Sichuan cuisine. Besides chicken, we also have Kung Pao Shrimp, Kung Pao tofu and my own creation: kong pao cauliflower etc.
- About the sauce, the amount of cornstarch used in the mixed stir fry sauce (碗芡) can be slightly different based on the very single dish. For example, in this kung pao chicken, only a small amount is enough since the chicken cubes is coated with starch in the marinating process. In other veggie kung pao dishes, more cornstarch is needed to make the sauce thicker and consequently can attach to the main ingredients.
- Key step of this dish is to be quick and accurate. Transfer the chicken cubes to the edges of the wok (no heat part) until they begins to change color to get the tenderest chicken meat. And be quick after adding the stir frying sauce.
- 2 chicken legs, cut into small cubes
- ½ cup of fried peanuts (or salt baked ones)
- 2 leek onion (only white part), cut into small section.
- a small pinch of salt
- 2 tsp. dark soy sauce (for coloring)
- 1 tbsp.cooking wine
- 2 tsp. cornstarch
- ½ tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- a small pinch of salt (around 1/3 tsp.)
- 1 inch ginger grated
- 1 tablespoon chopped green onion
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 tsp.cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoon sugar
If you use chicken thigh: remove the bones by cutting a break on the top and then push the meat off with the help of a sharp knife.
Cut the meat into long strips and further into one bite cubes.
Transfer the chicken to a large bowl and marinating with salt, soy sauce, cooking wine and cornstarch. This helps to add a basic taste and create a protecting shell for the chicken so we can produce the tenderest chicken.
Then cut the leek onion into 1cm sections, slice ginger and garlic.
Heat up oil in wok until hot, pour in cold oil and then heat until warm. Place the chicken cubes in and let them stay for 3-5 seconds until the starch begins gelatinization. Gently fry until all of the chicken cubes begin to change color.
Transfer the chicken cubes to the edges of the wok and empty the center. Add Sichuan peppercorn and dried chili pepper, fry until aromatic. Place in garlic, ginger and half of the scallion sections. Quickly fry to mix well.
Stir the sauce and pour in.
Fry until the sauce is well coated. Mix with the remaining leek onion white sections and fried peanuts. Transfer out immediately.
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Kung Pao Sauce
Prepare your sauce while your chicken is undergoing the velveting process. Simply whisk together the following ingredients and set aside the sauce until you’re ready to drown your chicken in it:
- Chicken stock
- Low-sodium soy sauce
- Chinese black vinegar or great quality balsamic vinegar
- Dry sherry
- Dark soy sauce
- Corn starch
When you are ready, pour the sauce directly over it and bring it to a simmer. This process will help the flavors meld together and thicken the sauce.
Kung Pao Catfish
Whisk together egg white, white pepper, 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce in a large bowl. Add catfish pieces, and gently mix until fish is evenly coated. Let stand 15 minutes.
Whisk together water, hoisin sauce, black vinegar, sugar, salt, and remaining 3 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 tablespoons cornstarch in a large bowl set aside.
Heat 4 cups of the oil in a small Dutch oven over medium-high to 300°F. Carefully add half of the catfish pieces to hot oil cook, occasionally gently moving fish, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer fish to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining catfish.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a wok over high until lightly smoking. Add scallions, dried chiles, garlic, and black pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and garlic is golden, about 30 seconds. Stir in hoisin sauce mixture. (The sauce should thicken almost immediately.) Carefully add fried catfish, and stir gently to coat. Transfer mixture to a plate. Sprinkle with peanuts, and serve immediately.
Quick to cook
As with most stir fries, once you start cooking, things move quickly! It takes about 6 minutes to cook. So make sure you have all ingredients prepared and ready to toss in.
Key Tip: Cook the Kung Pao sauce down until it reduces to a syrupy consistency with quite an intense flavour. That’s the Kung Pao way!!
Phew! I don’t usually end up writing so much stuff about ingredients in a post! So I’m signing off here and handing over the recipe. Don’t forget the recipe video below! I think it’s especially useful to see the consistency of the sauce at the end – it should be thick and syrupy, and intense dark brown colour. Enjoy! – Nagi x