Kung Pao Chicken

, from Issue #44. February, 2015
Photography by Aaron McLean.
Kung Pao Chicken

A favourite dish of a 19th century Qing Dynasty governor of Sichuan, Ding Baozhen, this quick stir-fry is wonderfully succulent when made with chicken thighs.

Serves: 4


800 grams boneless and skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing (Chinese cooking wine)
1 tablespoon cornflour
½ teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons cornflour
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon black rice vinegar (Chinkiang vinegar)

To cook
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 or more whole dried red chillis
2 tablespoons ginger, julienne
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 spring onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup roasted cashew nuts or peanuts


Chicken: Cut the chicken into 2 cm pieces. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl, add the chicken and toss to coat. Set aside if cooking immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Sauce: Combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth.

To cook: Heat the oil in a wok or large sauté pan until hot. Add the chicken in batches and stir-fry until the chicken separates and is cooked through. Transfer to a plate as it’s cooked. Add a little more oil to the pan between batches as needed. Add the chillis, ginger and garlic and fry for a few seconds until fragrant. Don’t let them catch and burn. Return the chicken to the pan and combine. Give the sauce a stir and tip into the pan, tossing and stirring until the sauce is thick and glossy and everything is well coated. Add half the spring onions and nuts and mix through.

To serve: Transfer the chicken to a serving bowl and top with the remaining spring onions and nuts. Serves 4

Pantry note: Shaoxing cooking wine is derived from glutinous rice. This Chinese rice wine enriches braised dishes and marinades. Available from Asian supermarkets and specialty food stores.

Black rice vinegar is also known as Chinkiang vinegar. Available from Asian supermarkets.

Cook’s tip: Break the chillis in half and shake out the seeds as these give the most heat, but leave them in if you want a really fiery dish!