1 lb chicken (or sub crispy tofu or roasted cauliflower, see notes below)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon corn starch
1–3 tablespoons peanut oil, coconut or vegetable oil for frying – optional, see notes.
one red bell pepper
6–8 dry red chilies (see notes)
1 large shallot, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped ginger
1 1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic
Kung Pao Sauce:
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons fish sauce ( or vegan fish sauce, or soy sauce)
1 tablespoon soy sauce ( or liquid amino acids)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (black vinegar if you have it)
1 tablespoon honey, or sugar
1 tablespoon garlic chili paste (Sambal chili paste)
Serve over cooked rice noodles, soba noodles, egg noodles, ramen noodles, linguini….. or rice!
Optional Garnishes: roasted peanuts, crispy shallots, green onions (sliced at a diagonal), chili flakes or Sriacha
If making noodles or rice, start it cooking on the stove.
Prep Chicken (or see notes for Cauliflower). Cut chicken into 1/2 inch cubes and place in a bowl. Add the salt, pepper, sugar and cornstarch to the chicken and toss. (Alternately — if using cauliflower, roast cauliflower florets in a 425 F oven for 25-30 minutes, with olive oil, salt and pepper – or see notes for more options).
Chop shallot, ginger, garlic and thinly slice red bell pepper into thin strips.
Make the Kung Pao Sauce: Measure all the condiments and place in a small bowl (water, soy, fish sauce, oyster, vinegar, honey and garlic chili paste) and give a quick stir until combined.
Cook Chicken: Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat, and when it’s hot, brown the chicken, turning, tossing and cooking through about 5 minutes. (I use a metal mesh splatter guard to prevent oil from going everywhere.)Turn heat off and place crispy chicken on a plate lined with paper towels, blot.
Stir fry! Gather all your ingredeints around (including caulifower if using) Wipe out wok, add 1-2 tablespoons oil and heat over medium heat. Add the red bell pepper and sear over medium heat until tender and just slightly charred in places, about 3-4 minutes. Lower heat to medium make a well in the center of the bell peppers, add the the shallot, ginger and garlic, stirring constantly, (keeping them in the center), 3-4 minutes until they are fragrant and golden. You may need to add a few more drops of oil. Add the dried chilies, cook one minute (turn your fan on!).
Add the Kung Pao sauce to the wok and bring to a simmer, then add the cooked chicken (or roasted cauliflower) back into the wok and tossing well, heating it back up. Serve over rice, noodles, or add the cooked noodles directly into the wok and sear them for a minute or two. Serve immediately.
Garnish with roasted peanuts and sliced scallions.
Notes: If subbing with crispy shrimp or tofu, prepare it in the same way as the chicken, blot, coat with salt, pepper, sugar and cornstarch , and fry in the wok until crispy. Then set aside.
CAULIFLOWER: For a lighter version, use roasted cauliflower (one small head) instead of the chicken: toss cauliflower florets with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast on a sheet pan in a 400 F oven until tender and egdes are crispy- about 30 mintues. Add it to the wok right after you add the sauce (at the very end).
Another vegan but ridiculously decadent option is use tempura cauliflower. Steam the cauliflower florets until al dente. Coat in a tempura batter and deep fry until golden and crispy. Toss the cauliflower into the wok at the last very minute into the simmering sauce.
*If you use the whole head of cauliflower, you may want to increase the Kung Pao sauce by half so make 1 1/2 times the recipe).
*Traditional Kung Pao also includes a handful of red, dried Chinese chilies (Thai red chilies are too spicy) . I usually toss these in at the end with the garlic and ginger, but in this recipe you don’t really need to because of the chili garlic paste. If you do choose to use the dried chilies, add them in right after the ginger and garlic, and decrease the garlic chili sauce in the recipe.