Kungpow Chicken may be the most well known Sichuan dish across the globe. Most Chinese restaurants in the States make a sweet, spicy sauce that coats deep fried chicken pieces. The dish in Sichuan is quite different and far more delicious. In terms of Sichuan food, it is on the mildly spicy side with sweet undertones. (The dried chilies in the dish are not meant to be eaten.) Gongbao chicken was first made at the end of the Qin dynasty. The emperor dubbed a man named Ding Baozhen a Gongbao or palatial guardian. Ding Baozhen later was named governor of Sichuan. To celebrate the position, a close friend held a banquet in Ding Baozhen’s honor. At this banquet a well known chef served a chicken dish that Ding Baozhen had always enjoyed. When guests ask for the name of the dish both Ding Baozhen and the chef were stumped. The host of the banquet suggested that the dish be name Gongbao chicken, and the name stuck.

  • Chicken leg (150 g)
  • Crispy peanuts (50 g)
  • Chili pepper, dried whole (6 g)*
  • Sichuan peppercorn (2 g)*
  • Ginger (5 g)
  • Garlic (5 g)
  • Scallion, preferably very large (15 g)
  • Salt (2 g)*
  • Sugar (8 g)*
  • Cooking wine (10 g)*
  • Soy sauce (5 g)*
  • Vinegar (8 g)*
  • Gourmet powder (1 g)*- optional
  • Stock (30 g)
  • Wet starch (25 g)*
  • Oil

Preparation:

  1. Debone chicken.
  2. Cut chicken into 2 cm cubes.
  3. Marinate chicken in a little salt, a little soy (for color, not flavor), cooking wine and wet starch.
  4. Peel ginger and cut into thin 1 cm tiles.
  5. Cut garlic into thin slices (should be approximately the same size and shape as the ginger tiles).
  6. Chop scallion into 1 cm cubes.
  7. Cut dried chilies into cubes. Shake to remove seeds.
  8. In a small bowl combine salt, sugar, gourmet powder, cooking wine, vinegar, soy sauce, wet starch and stock into a sauce. Set aside.

Cooking:

  1. Season wok.
  2. Heat cold oil in wok to a low temperature. (The dried chilies will be fried first. If the oil is too hot, they will burn almost immediately.)
  3. Remove wok from heat. Add chilies and Sichuan peppercorn. Return to heat and stir quickly. Watch very closely. As soon as chilies begin to brown, remove from heat.
  4. Add chicken. Return to heat and increase temperature. Stir fry.
  5. Add ginger and garlic.
  6. When fragrant, slowly add sauce. Wait 5-10 seconds, then stir.
  7. When sauce is thickened, add peanuts and scallions. Stir fry very briefly.
  8. Remove from heat and plate.

Dish checklist:

  • Is the chicken tender?
  • Is the dish a little spicy and a little peppery?
  • Are the peanuts crisp?
  • Is the oil tea colored and separate from the sauce?
  • Is the oil shiny?

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