This recipe is Project CHEF’s version of a classic Chinese dish, Kung Pao Chicken. Traditionally, peanuts play a main role. In this recipe though, peanuts are optional so that even those that are allergic to peanuts can enjoy this dish. In food and cooking, balance is a word that comes up often. It is important to have a balanced meal which means consuming the right proportions of food groups to give your body all the nutrients it needs to grow & maintain good health. In this recipe, let’s focus on balanced flavours. Think about lemonade, if it’s just lemon juice it would be likely be too sour to drink. However, when sugar is added for sweetness the result is a balanced beverage. Many Asian dishes are often created by juggling salty, sweet, sour and spicy flavours to create a balanced taste. This recipe is a good example.
Yield: 4 – 5 servings
Preparation Time: About 20 minutes
Cooking Time: About 15 minutes
- List the ingredients that are sweet, salty, sour and spicy in this recipe?
- List other ingredients that would be considered as sweet, salty, sour and spicy.
- What does it mean to have balanced flavours?
- ¾ cup (175mL) chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 Tbsp (30mL) soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp (15mL) balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp (15mL) cornstarch then ¼ cup (50mL)
- 2 tsp (10mL) sesame oil
- 1 ½ tsp (7mL) sugar
- 2 or 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
- ¾ tsp (3mL) salt and several grinds of freshly cracked pepper
- 3 Tbsp (45mL) vegetable oil, then 1 Tbsp (15mL) oil
- 1 small Thai chili pepper, split lengthwise, seeds removed (or ½ jalapeno pepper, diced)
- 1 Tbsp. (15mL) grated fresh ginger, about a 5 cm piece of ginger
- 4 green onions, thinly sliced, whites and greens kept separately
- 1 red pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 stalks of celery, cut into1 cm thick slices
- ¼ cup (50mL) peanuts (optional)
- Tray or plate
- Liquid measuring cup
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Whisk or fork
- Small sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Large bowl
- Microplane or grater
- 3 small bowls
- Large frying pan, with lid (or tin foil to cover)
1. Measure the chicken stock with a liquid measuring cup. Add the soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, sesame oil and sugar. Whisk together and put aside for now.
2. Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Add the salt and pepper and toss with the chicken. Add the ¼ cup (50mL) cornstarch and toss with the chicken. Wash the cutting board and knife in warm soapy water.
3. Cut the chili pepper in ½ and scrape out the seeds. Compost the seeds, unless you like your food spicy. Put in a small bowl. Wash the knife, cutting board and your hands. Do not rub your eyes or they will sting from the chili peppers.
4. Using a spoon, scrape the skin from the fresh ginger. Grate the ginger using a micro-plane or the fine holes on a grater. Measure and add to the chilies.
5. Slice the green onions and add the white slices to the chili mixture and place the green slices in another small bowl.
6. Cut the red pepper in ½ and remove the seeds and white pith. Compost these. Cut the red pepper into bite-sized pieces. Place in a small bowl.
7. Cut the celery into 1 cm slices and add to the red pepper.
8. Place large frying pan on the stovetop. Turn on the heat to medium-high and let the pan heat up for a minute. Add 3 tablespoons of oil to the pan and let heat up. Add the chicken, first shaking off the extra cornstarch. Cook for about 2 minutes a side, until it is lightly browned on both sides. Use tongs to turn over the chicken.
9. Add the other 1 Tbsp (15mL) oil to the pan. Add the chilies, the ginger and the whites of the green onions and cook, stirring for 1 minute.
10. Add the red pepper and the celery and cook, stirring until they are softened, about 2 minutes.
11. Give the broth mixture a quick whisk then add it to the pan, stirring it into the chicken and vegetables. Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen up any flavourful bits. The sauce will thicken. Remove a piece of chicken and cut into it. If it is pink, turn the heat down, cover the pan and cook for a few minutes more.
12. Remove the chili pepper halves. Serve right away, sprinkled with green onion slices and peanuts. This is very nice served over rice.
STEP-BY-STEP – KUNG PAO CHICKEN!
Gather your ingredients. Here we are substituting rice wine vinegar for balsamic vinegar. Vinegar is the key ingredient that adds a sour flavour to this dish.
Combine the wet ingredients: Chicken stock, soy sauce (hint: Salty flavour) and sesame oil in a measuring cup.
This is the mighty Thai chilli pepper. Small but powerful. It has a spiciness level of up to 100,000 under the Scoville Scale. The hottest pepper can go all the way up to 2,200,000 (2.2 million) on the Scoville Scale. Do you know which chilli pepper that is?
Use the knife or spoon to scrape the seeds out. Add the pepper to a small bowl. Make sure there are no seeds and you won’t find it too spicy. Keep the seeds in if you love spicy food. Remember to consult with everyone eating, to make sure everyone is happy with the spice level of your dish.
Cut the red bell pepper in half. These peppers have a 0 rating in the Scoville Scale, making it a nice sweet pepper with zero spiciness. Although edible, we don’t eat these seeds so you can compost them.
Heat a big pan or wok on a medium-high heat and add the oil. Once the pan and oil are hot add the chicken. Shake off the excess corn starch and you can add them gently into the pan using a pair of tongs.
Whisk the sauce mixture once more. Break up the corn starch that’s pooled up at the bottom, then add the mixture into the pan. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cut one of the chicken pieces in half to check for doneness. It should be white all the way through with no pink bits.
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