When I order take-out Chinese food I rarely deviate from ‘the usual’. It’s safer that way; I know exactly what to expect when I open those brightly white paper containers marked with a black sharpie in barely legible writing. This is part of the take-out experience.
As fun as it is to order our favorite dishes off a soy sauce stained paper menu, I will honestly tell you we order out less these days because I’ve made it my personal mission to learn how to make our favorite take-out dishes so we can make it at home. This way I can customize the spectrum of flavors available. It is also important when we have friends or family joining us who sometimes ask about the ingredients due to allergies or food sensitivities.
I love knowing I can make these dishes at home. And I’m not talking mediocre, either. I’m talking about cooking restaurant quality dishes at a fraction of the cost. Don’t get me wrong, I still love occasionally ordering take-out. Who doesn’t? But once you’ve mastered a dish to your own liking it’s hard to order the same dish again, especially knowing the home version is better. Enjoy!
The aromatic and spicy Sichuan pepper is also known as the Szechwan pepper or Szechuan pepper. A popular spice commonly used in Asian cooking, it is not a pepper or peppercorn despite its name. The peppercorn is the outer coat of the (citrus) prickly-ash tree berry. When used in cooking, it imparts a slight aromatic, spicy numbing flavor.
Kung Pao Chicken
This popular Kung Pao chicken recipe is a re-creation of a popular Chinese food dish commonly ordered at restaurants.
- 1 pound boneless, skinless, chicken breasts or thighs, cut into ½ - ¾ -inch cubes
- Marinade *See recipe below.
- 1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
- 8 Chinese dried red chilies, split length wise and seeds removed
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
- Sauce *See recipe below.
- 3 scallions, white parts thinly sliced, green parts set aside cut into 1 inch strips
- 1/3 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
- Marinade Recipe:
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan pepper corns
- *Instructions: Whisk the ingredients together until the corn starch is dissolved.
- Sauce Recipe:
- 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chicken stock/broth
- 3 teaspoons sugar (for less sweet, reduce the sugar by 1-2 teaspoons depending on your preference)
- 3 teaspoons soy sauce (depending on how salty the soy sauce and broth are, you can reduce the soy sauce amount by a teaspoon or two or add more if needed, no more than 2 teaspoons)
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- *Instructions: Whisk the ingredients until the corn starch is dissolved.
- Massage the chicken with the marinade in a small bowl for half a minute. Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 20 minutes.
- Heat the oil in a wok on high heat. Once the wok starts smoking, turn the stove top off. Add the red peppers and peppercorns to the pan quickly stirring for 1 minute being careful to not burn the dried chilies.
- Add the chicken to the pan and turn the heat back on to medium high.
- Once the outer later of the chicken is cooked and no longer raw, add the ginger and garlic. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Slowly add the sauce a tablespoon at a time, making sure the chicken is absorbing all the flavors between additions.
- Once the chicken is done cooking, add the green parts of the scallions and peanuts. Cook for a minute or two longer.
- Serve immediately.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 25 Minutes
Yield: 3-4 as a side dish and 2 as a main
Alice Currah is the publisher of popular food blog, Savory Sweet Life. Her approachable everyday recipes are accompanied by beautiful step by step photos and have been featured online at Martha Stewart, Real Simple, The Pioneer Woman, Epicurious, Bon Appetit, Saveur, iVillage and many more. In March 2010, Forbes.com featured Alice as one of “Eight of the Very Best Food Bloggers.” You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.