I was tempted to dedicate this post to Frank Sinatra, he of the “I did it my way”. But given everything I have heard and read about the man, I think we should say that he was a good singer and leave it (and all reference to the little man with the oversized ego) right here.
Over the years and decades, I have eaten Kung Po Chicken dozens of times. It is (as is “My Way”) a standard. There should be only one true recipe for Kung Po. But, you have guessed it, there are as many ways of cooking it as there are Chins in the Peking phone book.
So without further ado, here’s my take on Kung Po Chicken. Peanut purists will be tut-tutting at my use of cashews. Szechuan supporters will want to know why I left the peppercorns off the menu. Black vinegar enthusiasts will be in dark mood.
Here’s the (my) ingredients to serve 5 people
- 5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 250 grammes of raw cashews, unsalted
- 6 to 8 small dried (hot) chilis.
- 3 centimeters of ginger
- 2 generous garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1.5 tablespoons of rice wine
- 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon and two teaspoons of corn flour
- 2 tablespoons of peanut oil
We need to divide the ingredients into marinade, sauce and other stuff. Make the marinade in a big bowl. This takes all the rice wine, half a tablespoon of the soy sauce and a tablespoon of cornflour. The sauce is in two parts – the flavour and the thickener. The flavour is made with the remaining tablespoon and a half of soy sauce, the sugar and the balsamic vinegar. The thickener is made with half a tablespoon of corn flour and three tablespoons of water. Make them up.
Chop the chicken into bite sized pieces. I like to do it in big bites.
Mix the marinade ingredients and add the chicken. Stir it and leave it in there while you do the rest of the preparation.
Chop the spring onions, the garlic and the ginger.
Break the tops off the chilis and squeeze out the seeds, unless you want to blow the top of your head through the ceiling. There are a lot of seeds.
Chop the chilis into big-ish pieces.
Heat the wok. Add the cashew nuts and dry fry them until they start to release a lovely nutty aroma.
Remove and reserve. Add a tablespoon of peanut oil to the wok. Get it very hot.
Then add the chicken, in batches, and stir fry it until it’s browned on all sides. Don’t over cook it. It will finish off in the sauce.
Remove the chicken. Add more oil if needed. Then add the chili flakes.
Quickly add the nuts, spring onions, garlic, ginger and stir like crazy. When the garlic and ginger aromas start to rise, add the chicken and the flavour part of the sauce.
Mix the thickening part of the sauce and add enough to thicken the dish. If you over-do it, don’t panic, just compensate by adding some water. Serve on top of some nice, sticky rice. Sprinkle with some of the spring onions.
Purists may be aghast. My lot just scoffed everything and begged me to cook it again. Kung Po Chicken – Yes, I did it my way!