Peanuts – who knew they could be used for things other than peanut butter
I had no exposure to Asian food until I was in college. No Chinese, no Vietnamese, no Korean, no sushi. We truly were an American Eats household with the occasional spaghetti, lasagna, and enchiladas thrown in (and my mom makes a mean enchilada).
In college, I discovered the Americanized Chinese food trinity: sweet & sour chicken, fried rice, and egg rolls. About 5 years ago I discovered sushi. I was terrified as I looked at the bait sitting on my plate – at least it wasn’t moving. A friend gave me a quick tutorial in Chopstickology and that was all I needed. I’ll take sushi over just about anything now.
I’ll admit that I still lack serious knowledge and experience of Asian cuisine. My first taste of Kung Pao chicken came only a year ago and even then, it was a complete accident. I wanted Orange Peel Beef and the snotty 16-year old hostess at PF Chang’s wanted us to wait 2 hours for a table. On a Thursday evening. I rolled my eyes, looked at her, and said “It’s not that good.” That’ll teach us to drive up to the suburbs for dinner
On our way back to the car, my husband suggested that we try Pei Wei because he heard it was “a cheaper PF Chang with take-out.” We arrive, I get excited because they have Orange Peel Beef on the menu, and then my sails quickly deflate as the girl behind the counter tells me that they’re all out of orange sauce. Rough night.
I ordered the Mandarin Kung Pao Chicken even though it had peanuts (a weird combo in my mind) but it was fabulous – peanuts and all. I haven’t been able to find a recipe for homemade kung pao sauce that doesn’t induce the Renee Zellweger I-just-licked-a-lemon face. I have found a decent bottled variety (after striking out twice with two other brands). Decent, but not great. If you’ve got a good sauce recipe or know of a good store-bought brand, please feel free to share – I’d love to check it out!
Quick Kung Pao Chicken
Crispy chicken and carrots tossed with kung pao sauce. Without leaving the house!
- 3 Tbsp sesame oil, divided
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1 lb chicken, boneless/skinless cubed
- 1/4 cup green onions
- 1 tsp garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup carrots, thinly sliced with a mandolin or veggie peeler
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup Kung Pao sauce
- 1/3 cup peanuts
- Heat 2 Tbsp oil in wok or non-stick skillet over high heat.
- Toss chicken in cornstarch to coat and add to oil.
- Don't begin stirring chicken until the bottom has turned golden brown. Then stir occasionally until all pieces are crispy (this is the key to good Kung Pao chicken - crispy chicken).
- Remove chicken from pan onto a plate covered with a paper towel.
- Add remaining sesame oil to pan and stir fry green onions, garlic, carrots, and red pepper flakes.
- Whisk 1/3 cup Kung Pao sauce with 1/4 cup water and add to skillet. Stir well and add chicken and peanuts, toss to coat.
- Serve immediately over steamed rice.
Yields: 3-4 servings
Estimated time: 30 minutes