There are two distinct kung pao chickens – authentic Chinese kung pao with diced chicken pieces, peanuts, dried chili peppers, and Sichuan peppercorns and American kung pao with breaded chicken covered in a thick sweet and spicy sauce. Both are good dishes and you should try them if you haven’t already, I often eat them out at a restaurant or by way of takeout. But when it comes to making kung pao at home, I take authentic Chinese kung pao as inspiration but drop the fiery peppers and add fresh peppers instead. What you’re left with is a kung pao that’s not overly heavy, greasy, or spicy, one that’s packed with flavor and some freshness from the veggies. This kung FAUX chicken is probably a big faux pas in fiery Sichuan where it originated, but it’s a kid-approved, easy stir-fry that comes together in no time, making it a perfect Everyday Kung Pao that I could happily eat every day of the week.
I stock my pantry and fridge with a couple Asian essentials. Once you have these essentials on hand, you can make a large variety of Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Taiwanese dishes. This particular dish uses a number of Asian ingredients that you can find at a typical supermarket in the States- sesame oil, soy sauce, and Sriracha. But there’s one essential ingredient- Chinkiang black vinegar – that must be purchased at a specialty market or online. There’s really no adequate substitute for black vinegar. If you want to make a more authentic kung pao, buy dried red chilies and Sichuan peppercorns while you’re at the Asian market. One trip and you’re set for months, even years. Take a cultural adventure, stock up, and you’ll have years of easy and delicious Asian stir-fries in your future.
I ate TONS of kung pao chicken in China. My expat friends ordered it because it was an easy choice, being universally beloved by most diners, and since dinners were group affairs, someone at the table would inevitably request it. My partner and I ordered it because we could, being one of the few dishes we could order in Mandarin and be understood. My Chinese friends and colleagues would order it, being a safe bet that appeased Eastern and Western palates. So authentic kung pao holds a dear place in my heart, and I strongly urge you to try authentic kung pao if you’ve only ever eaten the American version. Here’s one that looks spot-on.
Authentic kung pao is easy to make, yet I wanted it to be even easier for a quick weeknight meal, plus with children in the mix, fiery sauces are out and more veggies are in. The result: Everyday Kung Pao Chicken – simple to prepare, adjustable heat, and delicious to eat. This crunchy, savory, slightly zingy stir-fry makes a wonderful meal, and it comes together in no time, making it perfect for a weeknight meal. If you like it and want to try more, Kung Pao Tofu is equally delicious.