Authentic Kung Pao Chicken

Many have tried Kung Pao Chicken take-out but, we promise you, this authentic version is so much better. Unlike the Westernized version with sickeningly sweet sauce, this recipe is in fact a stir-fry dish. The use of DeArbol chile peppers creates a spicy sauce that lightly coats the chicken, a delicious contrast to the crunchy peanuts.


Chicken Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon tapioca starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3/4 inch cubes


  • 3 tablespoons Shoaxing cooking wine (or dry sherry)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon tapioca starch
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Szechuan peppers
  • 1 cup DeArbol chile peppers



  1. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Add the chicken and toss thoroughly. Set aside for about 20 minutes.
  2. Combine cooking wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, tapioca starch, sugar, and ground Szechuan peppers in another bowl.
  3. Cut the chiles with kitchen shears into 1 inch long pieces and remove the seeds. (Tip: We recommend using latex gloves when handling spicy chiles like Tien Tsins)
  4. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok over high heat until the surface begins to shimmer, about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the chicken to the wok and quickly stir-fry for about 1 minutes, or until the chick is about three-quarters done. Remove the chicken from the wok and place it in a skimmer set over a bowl to drain off excess oil. Pour the oil out of the wok, reserving 2 tablespoons and quickly rinse the bottom of the wok with water, scraping off any residue.
  5. Dry the wok and return it to heat. Return the reserve 2 tablespoons vegetable oil to the wok. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the dried chiles and stir-fry for another minute. The chiles will create a spicy steam as they fry, so make sure your kitchen is well ventilated.
  6. Add the chicken to the wok and stir-fry for about 3 minutes, until cooked through. Keep stirring to ensure the chicken cooks evenly. Pour the sauce into the wok. Continue cooking until the sauce coats the chicken, about 30 seconds. Add the peanuts and scallions and stir-fry for another 30 seconds.


Yields: 2 or more if paired with a side dish.

Source: Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees by Kian Lam Kho

Ala Oleksy

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