|Rating: 3.5 out of 5.0||Serves: 4-6||Difficulty: Somewhat challenging||Approx. cost: $20-25|
|Prep time: 15 min.||Cook time: 10-15 min.||Additional time: Marinade 30 min.||Total time: 1 hr|
Interesting Facts about Sichuan
Szechuan cuisine comes from the Sichuan province of southwestern China. It’s known for its spiciness and flavor. The truth is Sichuan gourmet dishes can be heavy or light; as hot or not as hot as you like. It’s all in the red corn pepper and ma’ la. The combination of fiery chili peppers and tingly Sichuan red peppercorns is what creates the intense tingling sensation.
The spice it is known for is brought on by the copious use of Sichuan peppercorns; causing a tingling, numbing, spicy hot sensation when served in popular dishes. When created without the ma la, Sichuan can be very light and savory!
The recipe we prepared can have a variety of spiciness depending on the ingredients. Most Sichuan dishes are prepared with meat (pork, chicken or beef and/or fish) and is best paired with white rice and choice of veggies.
Authentic Kung-Pao “Chicken” Recipe
This well-known Sichuan dish is one of the healthier dishes served in restaurants. Kung Pao is considered one of the most popular dishes in Sichuan cuisine, outside of China at least.
It comes in many varieties, but in general, it is stir-fried with cubes of chicken, deep-fried peanuts and dried chili pepper and has that mix of spiciness, sour and sweet tastes that appeals to Sichuan savorers. To make this classic vegetarian, tofu, seitan or soy “chicken” can be substituted. It’s best served with jasmine or basmati rice.
* For this light Sichuan dish we added stir-fried veggies, zucchini, broccoli, celery, and egg.
- Stir fry wok or non-stick skillet pot/pan
- 400 g seitan (or tofu or soy “chicken”), cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 tbsp. cornflour
- 2 tsp. Chinese rice wine or dry cooking sherry
- 2 tbsp. Chinese black vinegar
- 1 tbsp. dark soy sauce
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
- ½ cup peanuts
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon minced or grated fresh ginger
- 1 handful of dried chilies
- 1 tbsp. Szechuan peppercorns
- 1 tbsp. caster sugar
- 1 spring onion, finely sliced
- 3 scallions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced
- steamed jasmine rice, to serve
- Marinate the seitan: Using a medium-sized bowl, stir together the rice wine, soy sauce and cornstarch until dissolved. Add in the seitan and coat it by gently stirring. Let it sit for 10 minutes at room temperature.
- Prepare the sauce: Mix together the Sichuan pepper, cornstarch, sugar, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and black vinegar in another bowl. Stir until the cornstarch and sugar are dissolved. Set aside.
- Turn on the oven fan! It can get a little smoky when you stir-fry dried chilies on high heat. Heat your large skillet or wok over high heat and you’ll know it’s hot enough when a single bead of water evaporates as soon as it hits it. Coat the base with the peanut oil. Stir-fry the chilies for 30 seconds or until they have started blackening and you smell a fragrant aroma. Add in the seitan and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the ginger, garlic, and scallion whites. Stir-fry for 30 seconds. Pour the sauce in to coat the remaining ingredients. Add the peanuts. Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. On your serving plate, garnish it with the scallion greens. Enjoy!
Cooking and Serving Tips
- The amount of cornstarch used in the stir-fry sauce can be slightly different based on the dish. Specifically for this Kung Pao “chicken,” only a small amount is needed since the cubes are coated with starch in the marinating process. In other Kung Pao dishes where veggies are added, more cornstarch is needed to make the sauce thicker and consequently can attach to the main ingredients.
- You have to be on the ball with this dish. Be quick when transferring the cubes to the cooler edges of the wok, waiting for them to absorb the sauce.
- The cost is reasonable in preparing the dish. It is getting the exact “spice or hotness” to taste to your liking that may take a lil more tact and finesse.
image: Clem Onojeghuo