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it’s not over

Recipe: kung pao chicken

We are quite enjoying the “no cleaning” directive after Chinese New Year. Not that I am an avid house cleaner in general, just that for these two weeks my slacking is condoned. This morning it occurred to me that I am more like my dad than my mom when it comes to cleaning. Dad likes things to be tidy and neat whereas Mom likes to disinfect and scrub until prettier than new. Kaweah was always disappointed when she visited my parents’ house because there was never anything to sniff let alone eat off the floors. Not that we have burgers and cake sitting on the ground, but this dog routinely monitors the state of the kitchen floor and snarfs up the tiniest of crumbs… she’s a lab for crying out loud.

you say the word, and i will eat these grapefruits

Why no cleaning for 2 weeks? It’s because the traditional lunar new year festivities last until the next full moon (Lantern Festival), but my family typically celebrates with a feast on new year’s eve and then they refrain from cleaning for 2 weeks. I guess I also leave the Chinese symbol for luck pasted upside down on our front door until the Lantern Festival. Anyway, even though the big party is over, I’m just telling you that it’s not officially over. I’m sort of having a little party of my own here…

little tripod, meet tripod on steroids (it’s tall, i’m standing on a chair)

I’m learning that the upgrade never really ends and that compact, lightweight, durable precision instruments are beautiful and ridiculously pricey. Well, for that matter, large, heavy precision optics are also beautiful and ridiculously pricey. I’m pretty sure these are tears of joy falling down my face…

two newest members of the lens family (left)

There is only one recipe left from our Chinese New Year’s Eve menu to be posted and I wanted to share that with you before I resumed staring lovingly at the new lenses I am cradling in my arms. I had an old kung pao chicken recipe for years and it was decent. I never ordered it in restaurants because it was so easy to make at home. One day I saw Bee had posted a recipe for kung pao chicken, and it looked heavenly. I bookmarked it to try and never got around to doing so until last week. [Hey, I never said I wasn’t slow about some things.]

green onions, bamboo shoots, ginger, red chili peppers, garlic, cashews

diced chicken meat

Bee says that authentic kung pao shouldn’t have any vegetables in it and I believe her. But a dish that is practically all meat just doesn’t appeal to me. I really prefer adding bamboo shoots (diced, not sliced) to the mix. Most western grocers only carry canned whole bamboo shoots, but if you’re fortunate enough to have access to an Asian grocer, try looking for fresh bamboo shoots (these are amazing – I can’t get them around here) or the ones that are sealed in plastic in the refrigerated section. So the two things that are different from my old kung pao recipe that I really like about Bee’s recipe are:

black vinegar

dried red chilis

These two ingredients give the dish a different flavor – a better flavor (I used to use chili garlic paste, which is fine, but not as good as this). If you like your kung pao to POW, then leave the seeds in. I shook out as many seeds as possible from the pods and we had this nice cumulative burning on our mouths. If you do use dried red chilis, please don’t handle them and stick your fingers in your eyes. Really, folks.

it’s all about the chopping and prepping

sauté the chicken

I reduced the amount of cornstarch both in the chicken and in the sauce. I suppose that is a backlash to the heavily cornstarched Chinese food I find in Boulder. It’s either that or it’s deep fried. Plegh! This dish doesn’t need a lot of cornstarch. Oh, and I almost always prefer chicken thigh meat to chicken breast meat. Thigh meat is juicier, more tender, and has more flavor. If you would envision a chicken, what part of its body does it walk around with? Not its breast. That would just be weird. Of course, thigh meat is a pain in the ass to dice up because I have this habit of trimming off as much fat as possible. In the end though, it’s worth the trouble.

frying the garlic, ginger, and red chilis in oil

stir-frying it all together

Bee has totally converted me with this recipe. It’s awesome and she’s spot on with the black vinegar. I love it so much that I’ve gone and ripped the old recipe out of my notebook. Can’t have that falling into the wrong hands…

kung pao yummy in my tummy

Kung Pao Chicken
[print recipe]
slightly modified from Rasamalaysia

1 lb. chicken, cubed (I prefer to use thigh meat trimmed of as much fat as possible)
1 tsp cornstarch
2 tsps soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing cooking sherry
1 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsps vegetable oil (not olive oil)
8-12 dried red chili pepppers, halved and de-seeded
5 slices of ginger
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup whole bamboo shoots, diced (optional)
1/2 cup peanuts or cashews, roasted and unsalted
2 stalks green onions, diced

2 tbsps soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp black vinegar
2 tbsps water
1/2 tsp cornstarch

Mix together in a small bowl.

Make the kung pao chicken: Mix the chicken with 1 teaspoon of cornstarch, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing cooking sherry, and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil Let sit for 30 minutes. Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a wok, sauté pan, or large frying pan on high heat. When the oil is hot, Add the chicken and stir-fry until half-cooked. Remove the chicken the from pan to a bowl. Heat the remaining cooking oil in the same pan on high heat. Toss in the ginger, garlic, and red peppers, stirring until the oil is fragrant. Add the chicken, bamboo shoots, and nuts and stir for a few turns. Pour in the sauce and continue to stir-fry until the chicken is coated and cooked. Add the green onions, stir, and serve hot.

57 nibbles at “it’s not over”

  1. Maria says:

    I am envious of your new family members:) The dish looks tasty too!

  2. Laura B. says:

    I am the same way about thigh meat. It is SO much better than breast meat, but I’m a fanatic about trimming off the fat and it takes so much longer with thigh meat. *sigh* So totally worth it though!

  3. Melissa says:

    “Not that we have burgers and cake sitting on the ground”


    I always use thigh meat. When I roast a whole chicken I make chicken salad out of the breasts, but otherwise they never make an appearance on my plate. Asian friends in particular always laugh at this obsession America seems to have with chicken breast, the LEAST flavorful part of the whole damn thing. WTH? Steve got me away from it. YAY.

  4. Bridget says:

    Well, what do you know, I happen to have a bunch of those little red peppers lying around, plus black vinegar. Although there isn’t a chance in hell I’ll find fresh bamboo shoots in Carlsbad, NM.

  5. jenjenk says:

    first off, your puppy is adorable. Secondly, i never knew about this no-cleaning rule for 2 weeks after New Year’s…is it possible for me to convert nationalities [but only if i can extend it to whenever i don’t feel like cleaning]. Lastly, feeling much camera envy. You’ve got an impressive lens collection.

  6. Memoria says:

    I was imagining a chicken walking on her breasts LOL!!!! It would be doing the caterpillar or is it the snake?? (re: the old break dance move).

    Anyway, this dish looks amazing. I prefer chicken thighs as well. I’ve never heard of black vinegar. I may have to try all of this out. Thanks for posting.

  7. Memoria says:

    Oh! I forgot to comment about the lenses!! I’m so envious!! I wish I had the money to just get lenses whenever. You’re so lucky!! They are beautiful. Wow.

  8. Manisha says:

    I’m not cleaning in deference to the Chinese New Year festivities.

    I haven’t eaten fresh bamboo shoot for over a decade. You are right, it is awesome. I need to go to H-Mart soon as I don’t have black vinegar or the cooking sherry. I can’t believe how much I have missed out on in the past couple of weeks.

    And, would you laugh at me if I served you Indian-Chinese food? It’s pretty darned good but I doubt you would recognize it as Chinese. Hee!

  9. Abby says:

    It seems I’m confused because I celebrate that part of Chinese New Year, uh, quite often.

    I’ve also rubbed my eyes with chile fingers and almost WRECKED MY CAR. Terrible.

    This looks so good. I’m kind of intimidated by Chinese food because of the ingredient list, but you make it seem much more accessible!

  10. Rosa says:

    A marvelous dish! Wow, I’m jealous of your equipment ;-P!



  11. Bethany says:

    I saw this recipe too and considered making it — you just sold me on it! I like the lower-cornstarch sauces too, it’s the way my mom cooks. I think I’ll try this soon, but with peanuts!

  12. Dani says:

    This looks remarkable.

  13. Wonderful says:

    My dad just got back from spending a year in China, I’m sure he would appreciate this recipe!!

  14. TheKitchenWitch says:

    Damn you, Jen! I am making a “decent” kung-pao chicken recipe TONIGHT and now that I’m looking at that recipe, I want to throw the whole thing in the trash! That looks outstanding! Although the one I’m making does use very little cornstarch, so that’s good–I hate that glutinious slop most places serve.

    Question: where did you get the black vinegar?

    Hugs to that cutie Kaweah. She must be loving the 2 week cleaning break…more morsels for her.

  15. barbara says:

    Impressive array of lenses.

    I have peanuts I need to use up so will try this. I still struggle with the texture of some meats in my mouth. Chicken is the worst so I might replace it with pork as I find that easier.

  16. Annie says:

    This looks wonderful! Reading this, it occurs to me that I don’t think I’ve ever had kung pao chicken before. I’m definitely trying this!

  17. Jan says:

    Oh, the lenses, I am envious. I bought my D90 last summer, and all I have acquired so far aside from the kit lens is a 50mm 1.8 prime and a 60mm 2.8 macro (not that I’m complaining; the macro wasn’t cheap). And our dog is a beagle/dachshund mix, and he lives for me working in the kitchen.

    I am so making this dish this weekend. Kung Po is my favorite Chinese dish. (Can we stretch the 2 week cleaning break to a couple months and tell my husband?)

  18. Asha@FSK says:

    I know something is wrong with me but it’s ok.. because, that pic of the camera and lens just made me swoon as much as food pics… sighhh.. you lucky you!!!

  19. sandy says:

    I love Kung Pao, and just got a new wok. After I finish seasoning, this looks like a good recipe for the initiation ceremony! Those pictures are gorgeous and I’m interested to see what the new lenses reveal…

  20. Erin says:

    Yum! This is one of my favorite Chinese dishes. Now I’ll have to try making it at home!

  21. Eat. Travel. Eat! says:

    What a nice picture of Kaweah! Your lenses sure are gigantic and beautiful :). Guess everyone desires for upgrades whether it be quickly or spread out! Just bought my new camera and a macro lens, as well as a tripod that dwarfed my older tripod. I’ll restrain myself for now. Wonder what the lenses will do to your already beautiful photography…

    Lower cornstarch sauces are always good in my book :). Always trying to not use it or use less of it these days. I do like the addition of bamboo in this recipe- haven’t seen it in other kung pao recipes yet.

  22. Bebe says:

    I don’t need to clean my floors because my lab does. :D
    In fact, I don’t remember the last time I washed them – and they look great!!

  23. Kristin says:

    Thank goodness I’d finished my coffee when I read this…burgers & cakes on the ground, I will eat these grapefruits & don’t stick your finger in your eye?! Snort! I had fresh bamboo shoots once at a Vietnamese restaurant, & have been searching for them ever since. So good! This recipe looks fabulous, but may sub the meat…I get so icked out fanatically trimming the thighs that I really don’t want to see them on my plate later.

  24. joey says:

    Lovely Kung Pao Chicken! I love Bee’s recipes :)

    Ooooh! I have lens-envy!

  25. Tracy says:

    I can TOTALLY relate to the dog in the picture. I have a black Flabrador Retriever that is a permanent speed bump in the middle of my kitchen too. His middle name is Hooverdysonelectrolux.

    Lovely photos and photo equipment! Beautiful food… I am now craving chilis and garlic. Will make this recipe when the snow bank melts and allows me to leave home again…..

  26. Marisa says:

    So that’s what bamboo shoots look like when not in a tin! Almost thought they were very large white asparagus. :-) Kung pao looks fantastic.

  27. Valérie says:

    This looks excellent! I’m like you, I generally prefer thigh meat as far as chicken is concerned. And I add veggies everywhere!

  28. Rasa Malaysia says:

    Hey Jen – looks great and I am so glad you made this recipe! I actually prefer my Kung Pao Chicken with cashew nuts because that’s how it’s made in Malaysia. When I went to Sichuan last year, I ordered this dish because I really wanted to taste the real stuff. I have to say that it tastes rather different, and they have Sichuan pepper corn powder on top of the chicken, which is great, if you love hua jiao, also, it tastes more vinegary than salty. And yes, it’s drenched in red oil, which is typical Sichuanese. And peanuts, no cashews. For my cookbook, I adapted my recipe to make it closer to what the authentic ones in Sichuan but still great for the general American palate.

    Thanks again for trying this. I also love this with shrimp. (You know I love shrimp). LOL.

    Gong Xi Fa Cai.

  29. Ruth Ann says:

    Looks heavenly! (When I say looks heavenly, I mean both the food and the camera equipment.)

  30. Diane and Todd says:

    Kaweah can come over here anytime and eat as many citrus as she wants! She’ll be the queen of the backyard, Sierra will be the King and Dante will be the Princess.
    Wowzers on the fabulous lenses! Happy to see you got the best of the best!! We’re moving next door to you for sure! *borrow* ;)

  31. carnivorelocavore says:

    About the title of your blog – this is hiarious – I wanted to play around with a food blog and couldn’t come up with a title (it’s still not very good) and my husband suggested to just call it “Cooking with Butter!” because well it’s the primary ingredient.

  32. Laura says:

    Oh my gosh, that looks so good.
    I have camera envy!

  33. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand says:

    Finally! The mystery of my perpetually dirty house is solved. I’m Chinese!

    So it also must be my cultural imperative to make Kung Pao Chicken. Good thing I have an excellent recipe.

  34. Eesh says:

    Hmm, I guess I didn’t hit submit last time. This recipe looks great and I love Kung Pao chicken. My boyfriend and I got engaged on Sunday night but I’ve been too busy to celebrate this week, so a big celebration is happening this weekend. Any suggestions for dessert or other menu items?

  35. Kitchen Butterfly says:

    Hi BFF…….I♥Kung poa kip! kip being dutch for chicken. This was part of our Chinese New Year celebrations………..looks stunning!

  36. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) says:

    Kung Pao chicken is one of the dishes I get middle-of-the-night cravings for, and I’ve been using an old recipe I brought back from Malaysia for the past 15 years or so. This looks delicious, and I’m going to try it and compare to my old standby.

  37. jenyu says:

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who prefers thigh meat to breast meat! :)

    Melissa – on occasion breast meat is good for some dishes, but yeah – flavor all the way, babe!

    jenjenk – ha! I do that like all year :)

    Memoria – you should be able to find black vinegar in Asian markets. It’s pretty cheap too (like $.79 for a whole bottle!) Yeah, I don’t have the money to get lenses whenever, these are all part of a business investment.

    Manisha – would I laugh at YOU?! NEVER!!! ;) Your cooking is so good, you can call it whatever you want and I will gladly devour it all. xo Oh, and I have a bottle of black vinegar for you (I have three bottles in the house).

    Abby – you crack me up, woman.

    Bethany – I like peanuts too, but the boy is a big fan of cashews :)

    TKW – don’t buy black vinegar! I have extra bottles (over zealous shopping) and I’ll give you one next time I see you. But in general, you can find it at any Asian grocery store xoxo

    Barbara – pork or shrimp will work in this recipe too, I bet!

    Sandy – I’m jealous of your new wok!

    Kristin – for truly fresh bamboo shoot tips, I think there is an actual season. I can’t remember when it is, but my grandma knows :)

    Tracy – hi-larious!

    Rasa Malaysia – you rock, Bee. Thanks for the inspiration (always). I love that you do all this research too! xoxo

    Diane & Todd – ha ha ha! You are so funny ;) If you move next door, I will definitely let you borrow the lenses!

    Tamar – I knew it! :)

    Eesh – you can search the recipe archives. Congrats!

  38. Bug says:

    So, I decided to take this recipe for a test drive last night, and let me say was I happy with it.

    I didn’t have access to an asian grocer because it was 10 at night and a 30 minute drive away, so I had to live without the cooking sherry or the black vinegar. I used white wine vinegar and cider vinegar in place, respectfully, and it still came out really good.

    The canned bamboo shoots? Don’t do it. the ones I got had absolutely no flavour- Go for the fresh ones or the ones that are in a plastic shrink-wrapped bag, those are delicious. If you can’t get ahold of any period, you may want to try water chestnuts, they have a similar consistency and are less likely to taste like the can the are packaged in.

    I decided to go on the spicier side and do 12 peppers (de-seeded) and it was PERFECT. Just enough spicy to give it a kick without making you run to the fridge for some milk. If you like seeds, I would suggest only 4-5.

    I am on a budget, so I used the peanuts rather than cashews, and i tasted wonderful, but I think cashews would have been worth the extra few bucks. Next time I won’t make substitutions and I will use cashews- but on a budget I was still able to make this and it came out FANTASTIC!

    Good luck to those blogging and cooking!

    P.S. I prefer Thigh meat, too ;-)

  39. Megan says:

    YUM, this sounds absolutely delicious! I think the next time I’m in the mood for take out, I may just have to whip this up instead!

  40. jami says:

    Thanks for the recipe! We tried it tonight with a few minor substitutions (mostly whatever I forgot or couldn’t find easily at the grocery store) and it was delicious. I’ll look forward to checking out the rest of URB!

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  42. Mrs Ergül says:

    Ok Jen, I’m going to grab that bottle of black vinegar the next time I see it!!!

  43. Susan says:

    Oh my word! I made this last night and it is hands down the best I’ve ever made OR eaten!! I started not to post anything about it because I’m a little late to the party but I can’t quit thinking or talking about how good it was. probably sent half a dozen people to view your blog.

    Obviously had to use canned bamboo shoots but when I find some fresh it’s on again!

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  47. techie says:

    new devotee … love this blog … i live in China (expat) and KungPao Chicken here is always made with peanuts … but then again we live in a peanut growing province … also, fresh chilis are used … sliced into rounds … had some last night … yummmm

  48. techie says:

    oh one more thing … we can buy these fabulous dry fried chilies (a bit like deep fried but with out batter, very crunchy – so wonderful) … they are awesome in a dish like this

  49. Jo says:

    Is it possible to post a link to this webpage & some of your food pics to my FB?

  50. jenyu says:

    Jo – yes, you can include the link on your FB wall, but I do not allow posting of my photos to your FB wall or albums. Thanks for asking!

  51. Tatiana says:

    You have an absolutely amazing selection of Chinese recipes. Thank you so much for sharing! I’d love to see more Eggplants recipes (black bean souce), etc. The Hot & Sour soup I made by your recipe didn’t turn out well, but I blame myself as I think it is a too complicated one to attack. Would appreciate a simplified version if exists. Thanks again, and your pup is adorable!
    P.S. Would you add Scichuan pepper to this recipe?

  52. jenyu says:

    Tatiana – you’re welcome to search for a simpler version of any recipe, but I don’t have one here. I probably wouldn’t add Sichuan peppercorns to the recipe for Kung Pao Chicken.

  53. Mike says:

    A good recipe, thank you. It works…what’s interesting to note about feedback about recipes normally is that commentators have not cooked the dish…so they observe typically: yummy/that looks nice or somesuch nonsense which helps noone.

    My observation is: use the chillis as suggested but remove them once infused/fried in the oil (ie start the infusion a little earlier in the process). It all depends on the strength of your chillis (mine are home grown in the United Kingdom and I am surprised by how strong they are) taking them out early on saved the dish – which was reassuringly fiery but not overhot.

    If you don’t like it too hot but want a bit of spice, add a very small dried chilli crushed and fry with the garlic and the ginger.

    Nice recipe, thank you, well done!!!!!

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  57. Stacey says:

    I made this last night and it’s absolutely delicious! I think I may add some more veges next time to give it a little more bulk, but it was great!

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