Chinese Takeout, Poultry
Comments 10

Kung Pao Chicken (宫保鸡丁)

Kung pao chicken

Kung pao chicken

Kung pao chicken

Kung pao chicken

Hands up if you have not tried the popular Kung Pao Chicken (宫保鸡丁).  If your tolerance level towards spicy food is very low, then I forgive you.  Else, you have no reasons not to try this dish.  It is widely available in every parts of Chinatown around the world.

I love Kung Pao to the MAX.  When I first arrived in Melbourne, I missed this dish so much that it was one of the first dish I attempted to make – check out my first recipe here.  While there has been some slight variations of Kung Pao Chicken across the world today, one thing remains the same and that is maintaining the hot numbing effect from the dish.  If it doesn’t give you that feeling, then it ain’t Kung Pao.

The classic Chinese dish that comes from the Sichuan Province is believed to be named after Ding Baozhen, a late Qing Dynasty official, and governor of Sichuan Province. His title was called Gongbao which literally means Palace Guardian.  And that’s how Kung Pao Chicken got its name 🙂

“Authentic Kung Pao Chicken leaves you with distinctive hot and numbing sensation.  The Chinese calls it málà and it comes from the use of Sichuan peppercorn.  Sichuan peppercorn is actually not a pepper, but the berries from prickly ash tree.”

With so many creative cooking these days in the kitchens, creative cooks have been substituting chicken with tofu, prawn, pork or beef.  Whichever main ingredient you choose, the basic recipe remains the same.  So, say no to chinese takeout and start making this at home.  Not only do you save the extra bucks, it’s super simple and very versatile.

Kung Pao Chicken (宫保鸡丁) (adapted from Kitchen Explorers)

Serves 4

400 g boneless, skinless chicken thigh fillet, cut into bitesize cubes
2 tbsp peanut oil
10 dried chilli, cut lengthwise (set aside 1 tsp seeds), soak in warm water for 5 mins
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 tbsp ginger, minced
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted toasted peanuts

2 tsp rice wine
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorn
2 tsp cornflour

1 tsp dark soy sauce
3 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar
3 tsp sugar
1 tbsp chicken stock
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp cornflour

1. Mix all marinade ingredients in a bowl. Lastly, stir in the cornflour until well mixed.  Dump in the chicken cubes and massage the chicken with marinade.  Set aside for 30 minutes.  15 minutes before cooking, remove from the fridge and bring to room temperature.

2. In a separate bowl, mix sauce ingredients in a bowl.  Once again, stir in the cornflour last and mix well.  Set aside.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok until smoking.  Dump in Sichuan peppercorn, dried chillies and reserved seeds.  Immediately turn the fire to low.  Stir fry for 1 minute until fragrant.

4. Add ginger and garlic.  Bring the heat back to medium high and continue stir fry for another 1 minute until fragrant.  Add chicken cubes into the wok.  Stir fry until the chicken has browned on the outside for about 5 minutes.

5. Stir the sauce mixture and slowly pour them into the wok.  Continue to stir fry non stop so the chicken cubes fully absorb the sauce.  Add scallion and toasted peanuts.  Toss for another 15 seconds.  Dish up and serve immediately with steamed jasmine rice and vegetable stir-fry.



  1. I never realised Sichuan peppercorns weren’t pepper 🙂
    Your photos are so beautiful by the way – and as a fan of Kung pao my mouth is watering already!

    • Yes totally. I think I’m in a love-hate relationship with peppercorns, you know. That mala effect on your tongue is just tingling 🙂

  2. Oh this looks incredible! I must admit that I have never ordered Kung Pao chicken, but now that I have this recipe I think I’ll just have to make my own, love all that spicy flavour! What sort of dried chillies do you use? 🙂

  3. Dianna says

    I bought some Sichuan peppercorns from the local Asian market that I’ve tried in other recipes. The black seed in them is bitter and grainy. Is there some easy way of separating the shell from those black seeds or do you just grind them all up into a powder? I’d love to use them a lot more but that seed is bothersome. Your dish looks absolutely mouthwatering and I’d love to try it asap!

    • Hi Dianna, the black seed is not particularly bitter though, I find. Most of the flavour sits in their husks. Having said that, I don’t recommend to grind them into powder. This suggestion may be more tedious but you may try to spread them on a parchment paper and pick the black seeds out. But honestly, I won’t recommend it.

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