Kung Pao Sauce

3 tablespoons peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
2 teaspoons Korean chili flakes (*Footnote 1)
1 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 large slices ginger, minced

1/2 cup Chinkiang vinegar
1/4 cup light soy sauce (or soy sauce)
1/4 cup Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry, or water)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt (or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt)

Combine Chinkiang vinegar, light soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Add peanut oil, chili pepper flakes, and sesame seeds in a sauce pan. Cook over medium low heat until it reaches a gentle sizzle. Turn to medium low heat. Cook and stir until the chili powder turns dark brown (without turning black). If the oil start to bubble fiercely, remove the pan from the heat.

Add ground Sichuan peppercorns, garlic and ginger. Cook and stir for another 30 seconds to release fragrance.

Stir the vinegar-based sauce with a spoon to dissolve cornstarch completely. Carefully add to the saucepan. Cook and stir until the sauce thickens just enough to coat a spoon (the sauce will thicken once cooled down). Transfer to a bowl immediately.

Once the sauce is cooled down completely, transfer to an airtight jar. Store in the fridge for 1 to 2 weeks. Store the sauce in the freezer for longer period of time.

1. Korean chili flakes are quite mild and are suitable for using in this sauce. If you’re not sure about the heat level of your chili flakes, start with 1 teaspoon chili flakes so your sauce won’t turn out too spicy. Alternatively you can use 1 teaspoon cayenne powder.

How to cook the Kung Pao Sauce with any ingredients

Assuming that you’re going to make 2 servings, you can use 450 grams (1 pound) protein, or 6 to 8 cups vegetables, or 220 grams (1/2 pound) protein and 3 cups vegetables.

You will need 1/4 to 1/3 cup homemade Kung Pao Sauce.

(PS: most of the stir fry starts with fresh aromatics. But since we’re using plenty of garlic and ginger in this sauce, we’ll skip this step.)

(1) Choose and cut the protein.

Recommended Protein

Beef (flank steak or short ribs) – thinly sliced (1/8 to 1/4-inch thick), or cut to strips
Chicken (skinless boneless breast or thigh) – diced to 1-inch pieces, or sliced to 1/4-inch thick
Pork (tenderloin or loin) – thinly slice (1/8 to 1/4-inch thick), or cut to strips
Shrimps – peeled and deveined
Tofu (firm or extra firm) – diced to 1/2 to 2/3 inch pieces

(2) Marinate and prep the protein.

For each pound of meat or seafood, mix with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or peanut oil), 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Let marinate for 5 to 10 minutes.

To create restaurant-style crispy chicken, learn this method so you can achieve the same texture without deep-frying.

For tofu, marinate with 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 tablespoon syrup (or honey) for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and coat with a thin layer of cornstarch. See this post to learn how to cook crispy tofu without deep-frying.

(4) Cut and prep the vegetables.

To make a quick dinner, my favorite way is to only use one type of vegetable. You can use two, but ideally no more.

Recommended vegetables

Asparagus – Chopped to 1-inch pieces
Baby bok choy – Tear off large leaves and halve lengthwise, halve or quarter the rest
Bell peppers – Sliced or chopped
Broccoli (fresh) – Divide into small florets; steam or blanch (see Omnivore’s Cookbook to learn how to blanch the broccoli quickly in the same stir fry pan)
Broccoli (frozen) – Microwave for 2 to 4 minutes (depending on the quantity), so the broccoli is thawed and lukewarm, but not hot.
Brussels sprouts – Roasted (see Omnivore’s Cookbook for how to roast Brussels sprouts)
Cauliflower (fresh) – Divide into small florets; steam, blanch, or roast
Cauliflower (frozen) – Microwave for 2 to 4 minutes (for stir fry), or roast (see Omnivore’s Cookbook to learn how to crisp up frozen cauliflower in the oven)
Carrot – Sliced into pieces or strips (by using a julienne peeler); or cut into chunks and roasted
Celery – Sliced or diced
English cucumber – Seeded, then sliced or diced.
Eggplant – sliced (see Omnivore’s Cookbook to learn how to prep eggplant so it crisps up during stir frying)
Kale – Stalk chopped into small pieces, leaves coarsely chopped
Onion – Sliced
Snow pea
Zucchini – Seeded and sliced

(5) Make the stir fry, or use the stir fry sauce on baked food.
See Omnivore’s Cookbook to learn the basic steps of making Chinese stir fry.

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