Kung Pao Chicken (sort of)

Kung Pao Chicken

Okay, this is fine, but not great.  I’ll take responsbility for making some substitutions that might be sub par, but still I think this leaves a little to be desired.  Again, what you see below is my version.  The link above takes you to the Food Network recipe from Wolfgang Puck.

I didn’t have any rice wine or sherry, which is often an acceptable substitute.  I used Marsala.  It’s a sweet wine too, but perhaps one step too far removed.  Also, I don’t know from deep-fried peanuts so I used lightly salted roasted peanuts instead.  That seemed fine.  The last substitution was crushed red chiles instead of whole ones.  Dried spices are more intense than fresh ones so you need less.  Another fine replacement I think.

This recipe makes WAY too much sauce for the amount of chicken.  I recommend halving the marinade and the sauce or adding vegetables to the pan to bulk it up before you add the amount of sauce prescribed in the recipe.  Use a low sodium soy sauce and don’t bother with the extra salt.  Do stir pretty constantly.  There’s a fair amount of sugar, present through the sweet wine, hoisin, etc, and you don’t want it to burn.   I don’t find ‘bring the peanut oil to almost smoking temperature’ to be a helpful instruction.  What he means is watch the oil until it shimmers.  It shimmers just before it smokes.  Mix your slurry thoroughly and stir constantly when you add it so it doesn’t turn into lumps.  Finally, it’s a goopy mess to clean up.  Yet another reason to reduce the amount of sauce or add veggies for bulk.

  • Good? Fair, but maybe worth a second try using the recipe ingredients with different proportions.  I think I’ll look for a different recipe if I decide to make this dish again.
  • Easy?  Yes
  • Good for company?  I think not.
  • Special shopping? Rice wine in my case.  Maybe chiles if you don’t keep a reasonable substitute on hand.  Note that ground red pepper isn’t really an acceptable substitute.



  • 1 tablespoon rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced


In a non-reactive bowl, prepare the marinade. Combine the rice wine, peanut oil, soy sauce, salt and cornstarch. Stir in the chicken pieces and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.

3 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil
4 dried red chiles remove stems and cut in halves
1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced, smashed
1 garlic, smashed
1 green onion, cut the white part into 1/2 -inch pieces, julienne the green parts

1/4 cup deep-fried peanuts
2 tablespoons chicken stock plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed together to make slurry

In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the sauce. Set aside.

Over high heat, in a wok, bring the peanut oil to almost smoking temperature. Stir-fry the chilies, ginger, garlic and white part of the green onions for 30 to 40 seconds, or until the chilies turn dark. Add the chicken and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until golden in color.

Add the sauce and bring to a boil. Add the peanuts. Thicken with the slurry and continue to cook until glossy. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with julienne green onions.


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