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Kung Pao Chicken with House Rice

(recipe, Ming Tsai & Arthur Boehm)


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Introduction

In Szechuan, their place of origin, kung pao dishes always contain chiles and Szechuan peppercorns. American versions, usually made with chicken, omit the peppercorns and always include peanuts. My version has the best of both worlds. I use chicken — flavorful dark meat — plus peanuts and the peppercorns, which the Chinese say produce mala, an intriguing, tingly numbness to the tongue. Lemon juice adds bracing acidity to this new old favorite. Before grinding the Szechaun peppercorns, strain them to ensure that any twigs or small pebbles are removed. To drink: A light microbrew like Magic Hart India Pale Ale.

Ingredients

  1. 1 Tbsp. sugar
  2. 2 Tbsp. sambal
  3. ¼ cup naturally brewed soy sauce
  4. 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  5. Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  6. 2 lb. dark chicken meat (from the legs and/or thighs), cut into ½-inch dice
  7. ¼ cup cornstarch
  8. Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  9. 5 Tbsp. grapeseed or canola oil
  10. 3 Tbsp. minced garlic
  11. 2 Tbsp. minced ginger
  12. 1 tsp. coarsely ground Szechuan peppercorns
  13. 2 cups carrot nubs, sliced ¼-inch thick
  14. 5 celery stalks, cut into ½-inch dice
  15. 1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
  16. House Rice, for serving

Steps

  1. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, sambal, soy sauce, sesame oil, and lemon zest and juice, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the chicken and cornstarch, and season with salt and pepper. Toss the chicken to coat it lightly in the cornstarch, remove the chicken to a plate, and set it aside.
  3. Heat a wok over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil is hot, add half the chicken and stir-fry, separating the pieces, until the chicken is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate, add 2 more tablespoons of the oil, swirl, and, when the oil is hot, stir-fry the remaining chicken. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
  4. Add the remaining tablespoon oil and swirl. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, ginger, and peppercorns, and stir-fry until softened, about 30 seconds. Add the carrots, celery, and peanuts, and stir-fry until the flavors have combined, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar mixture and, when it simmers, return the chicken to the pan. Stir to combine.
  5. Make a bed of rice on the platter, top with the stir-fry, and serve.