Gong Bao Ou Pian (Kung Pao Lotus Root or Potato)

1 pound (400 grams) fresh lotus root or potato, peeled and cut in 1/4-inch slices
3 green onions, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon thinly sliced ginger
1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic
12 medium-hot dried red chili peppers (Sichuan, Tianjin or Korean), cut in half
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
2 tablespoons Zhenjiang black rice vinegar
2 tablespoons chicken stock
1 tablespoon Chinese light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup raw peanuts (preferably skinless)

Slice the lotus root, green onions, ginger and garlic. Cut the chili peppers in half, retaining the seeds. Keep lotus root slices in a bowl of cool water until time to cook them.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the sauce: vinegar, chicken stock, soy sauce, sugar, rice wine, cornstarch and salt.

Heat wok until starting to smoke, add 2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil and heat until hot. Add peanuts, tossing and turning them in the wok until they are golden brown. If they brown too quickly turn down the heat. Remove and set aside.

Drain the lotus root and pat it dry with a towel. Wipe out the wok and heat until wisps of smoke appear. Add enough oil to deep-fry the lotus root, or use less oil to shallow-fry them in two batches. Fry until just starting to brown on the edges. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Pour out the oil, clean the wok and return to the heat until hot. Add one tablespoon oil, heat briefly, and add the chili peppers and Sichuan pepper. Stir-fry until fragrant, but do not brown or burn. Add green onions, ginger and garlic and stir-fry until just starting to soften.

Return lotus root to wok, add the sauce and stir-fry briefly, until the flavors meld. Add the peanuts and mix them through the dish to warm them. When sauce has thickened and everything is hot, remove to a plate and serve.

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