Whether you’ve tried it or not, you’ve likely heard of this saucy dish.
But what is Kung Pao chicken? And how do you make it at home?
Kung Pao chicken (also Gong Bao or Kung Po) is a stir-fried Sichuan dish featuring chicken, peanuts, and vegetables in a sweet-spicy sauce. With peppercorns and chili peppers, the sauce is lightly spiced but not overwhelmingly so. Instead, it’s well-balanced with soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar.
Kung Pao chicken has been a beloved staple of Chinese (Sichuan) cuisine for centuries.
And it certainly packs a flavorful punch.
Not only is it delicious in its classic form, but it can also be adapted to suit modern tastes, with variations ranging from mild to fiery hot.
So let’s learn more about this fantastic dish, including my go-to recipe!
What Is Kung Pao Chicken?
Kung Pao chicken is a classic Chinese dish from the Sichuan province of southwestern China. It typically consists of diced, marinated chicken stir-fried with vegetables such as onions, bell peppers, and celery in a spicy sauce. Peanuts and chestnuts are often included for added flavor and crunch.
The name “kung pao” is derived from a late Qing dynasty court official, Ding Baozhen, who served as governor of Sichuan province in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Best served over steamed white rice, it’s characterized by its bold flavors and mild spiciness.
In some parts of China, Kung Pao chicken is served as a breakfast dish. But it’s tasty any time of day.
What Does Kung Pao Chicken Taste Like?
Kung Pao chicken tastes sweet, savory, and lightly spiced. There’s plenty of umami notes from the soy sauce and Chinese seasonings, with a lot of warmth from the Sichuan peppercorns and chilies.
Balanced with sugar, starts off sweet and savory, but the heat creeps in the more you eat.
Meanwhile, the garlic adds a sharp bite that’s tamed by the nutty flavor of peanuts.
Finally, chopped green onions add a pleasant but subtle oniony aroma.
You simply can’t beat the flavor combination.
What Is Kung Pao Sauce Made Of?
Kung Pao sauce is made with a spicy mixture of garlic, chili peppers, cornstarch, vinegar, sugar, and sometimes peanuts or sesame oil. The result is an addictively savory flavor that works well as a dipping sauce for egg rolls and dumplings or tossed in noodles.
No matter how you use it, Kung Pao sauce definitely packs a punch!
What Is the Difference Between Kung Pao Chicken and General Tso’s Chicken?
When it comes to Chinese takeout staples, Kung Pao chicken and General Tso’s are two of the most popular choices.
But what exactly is the difference between them?
Well, one way to think about it is that Kung Pao is all about spice, while General Tso has a milder flavor.
- Kung Pao traditionally contains diced chicken that’s stir-fried with veggies and peanuts in a spicy chili pepper sauce for a hint of heat.
- General Tso’s has a sweet and tangy sauce made mostly from soy sauce and vinegar.
So if you’re looking for something more flavorful and fiery, Kung Pao is the way to go.
But if you want something a bit sweeter, try General Tso’s!
One thing’s for sure, both dishes are delicious and make great takeout options.
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