Ingi Cooks - Kung Pao Chicken!

You know, I hate cooking. Well, to be specific, I hate the seemingly never-ending chorus of "what's for dinner" and the planning, shopping and whipping up of the evening meal. I hate it as much as "are we there yet?" and "I haven't got any clean undies!"

But I do love a bit of a weekend gourmet special. On a Saturday or Sunday (but not every Saturday or Sunday), I get all Masterchef-y and plan and cook a special meal. From scratch. A bit fancy, like. So, when I do get all fancy or domestic, I thought I might have a new blog category - Ingi cooks!

I'm totally missing all the "real" Asian cuisine we enjoyed in our ports on our cruise. I could go and order some Chinese takeaway, but the "Chinese" of regional Australian towns sometimes leaves a little to be desired.

So on Saturday, whilst working in the library, I came across Australian chef Kylie Kwong's excellent travel/cookery book: My China - Stories and Recipes From My Homeland. It is a massive tome, and a stunning visual feast of her travels through China as she explored her Chinese heritage.

Choosing what to cook was a bit difficult! So much to pick from! In the end, I decided to go for Kung Pao Chicken, which we inhaled in Beijing. This is a great authentic version of the recipe (gongbao jiding in Chinese, meaning 'Governor's Diced Chicken', named after a nineteenth century Sichuanese governor).

I also did a pork one, which I'll share with you next time.  Both recipes are freely available online, so without further ado, here is the first edition of Ingi Cooks! I've included the U.S. translation for measurements (get with the metric times, people!) and different terms for common ingredients.

Kung Pao Chicken

  • 600g (1 lb 4 oz ounces) chicken thigh fillet (some recipes say you can substitute chicken breast, but I reckon this would dry out too much - thigh fillets stay nice and juicy and you cannot overcook them - I know, I've tried!)
  • 2 tablespoons of cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 2 tablespoons of shao hsing/shaoxing wine (chinese rice wine - we can get it now in the supermarket, but you may have to go to a speciality store or substitute with cooking sherry)
  • 2 tablespoons ground nut (peanut) oil
  • 10 small dried red chillies (I couldn't find these, so just wacked in some fresh ones instead)
  • 2 tablespoons ground nut (peanut) oil extra
  • 5cm (2 inch) piece of ginger, cut into thin strips
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 60g (2 oz) unsalted roasted peanuts (I used raw peanuts because they are more similar to what we ate in Beijing)
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chinese black vinegar (I used balsamic instead)
  • pinch of salt and sichuan pepper
Combine chicken with the cornflour and wine in a bowl. Dear lord, that smells heavenly already, but restrain yourself from eating raw chicken!!! Cover, place in refrigerator and leave to marinate for one hour, or as long as possible if you forgot to leave any time before you decided to have this (which is invariably what I do). Apparently marinating ingredients in cornflour and wine is a Chinese technique known as "silkening" and it is supposed to give food a tender, velvety texture.

Place 2 tbs oil and chillies in a cold wok and then turn the heat to low. Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes or until chillies begin to darken slightly. Using a slotted spoon, immediately remove chillies and drain on kitchen paper.

Leaving the chilli-infused oil in the wok, turn heat up to high and stir-fry half of the chicken cubes for 3 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon. Add the rest of the oil to the wok with the remaining chicken and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Return all chicken to wok, along with the ginger and reserved chillies and stir-fry for 30 seconds.

Add sugar and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add peanuts, soy sauce and vinegar and stir-fry for another 30 seconds. Don't leave sitting on a high heat while you finish off the other dishes because the sugar in it will caramelise and eventually, burn. Learn from my mistakes, people!

Serve immediately with Sichuan pepper and salt.
Burnt bits removed!

I served this with plain steamed jasmine rice (OK - it was the microwave packet stuff, which is just as good and handy when you trying to coordinate 3 meals to arrive at the same time as the rice and you stove and kitchen are tiny)!

You can play around with the amount of chillies to your taste. This should serve 4-6 as part of a shared meal and we can attest to the fact it is yummy as left-overs too!

Let me know what you think about the inclusion of culinary delights! Do you like it? Are you going to try out Kung Pao chicken??


  1. Thanks for posting this.This is awesome!!

  2. That looks yummy! The thing that stops me from making more Asian food is that it seems to require 8 million ingredients. I do make a decent pork-fried rice, but I had an Asian guy tell me I was doing it all wrong and so now I know zero Asian dishes. Damn it.

    (ps - thank you for the English units. That was very kind of you)

  3. That looks divine! I'd be the only one in this house who'd eat it, so no, I won't be making it soon. I'll have to be happy with take-out.

    The only other blogs I make time for are cooking ones. So post your recipes, dark ages measurements and all. Great idea!

  4. That looks SOOO yummy!!!
    Will you make us some when you come to Guatemala for a visit?


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