This past week caught up with a good friend of mine over lunch at a national chain Pan Asian restaurant (can you guess which one? Ha!). I had never been there before, so I was really curious to see what people love (or hate) about the place. I ordered the Kung Pao Chicken and quickly gobbled up the entire thing. I have to admit, it was good. It was pretty salty and I really wished there had been some vegetables in the mix, but it was good none the less.
Soooo, of course I had to make my own version at home! This is not a “copy cat” recipe for what I had in the restaurant because I purposely made the sauce lighter. The restaurant version was great, but I spent the rest of the day feeling like I had sucked on a salt lick for lunch. My sauce, while still salty, spicy, and sweet, is lighter and lets the flavors of the delicious vegetables shine through. Speaking of vegetables, I neeeeded vegetables! So, I grabbed some broccoli florets from my freezer and splurged on a red bell pepper for color and sweetness. So worth it.
I also kind of had a happy accident with this recipe. While testing sauce combinations, I realized that I had accidentally grabbed the oyster sauce rather than hoisin sauce out of my refrigerator. I made a second batch using hoisin like I had intended, but actually liked the oyster sauce version much better! Traditional kung pao doesn’t have oyster sauce, I’m sure, but it gave the sauce a wonderful depth and richness that the hoisin did not. Oyster sauce won that round.
Don’t be deterred by the many, many step by step photos for this recipe. It’s actually super fast and easy! Woot!
This has a whole teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes in it, so, you know… IT’S SPICY.
Kung Pao Chicken (and vegetables)
- 2 Tbsp oyster sauce ($0.36)
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar ($0.20)
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce ($0.10)
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar ($0.02)
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil ($0.57)
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes ($0.10)
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger ($0.05)
- 1 clove garlic, minced ($0.08)
- 1 tsp cornstarch ($0.01)
- 2 Tbsp water $0.00
- 1 large 3/4 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast ($1.50*)
- 1 large egg ($0.17)
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch ($0.08)
- pinch black pepper ($0.03)
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil for frying ($0.10)
- 1/2 lb. frozen broccoli florets ($0.83)
- 1 large red bell pepper ($1.89)
- 2 green onions, sliced ($0.20)
- 1/3 cup dry roasted peanuts, unsalted ($0.28)
- 4 cups cooked rice ($0.69)
- Mix the ingredients for the sauce together in a bowl and set aside. Chop the red bell pepper into 1/2 inch pieces. Slice the green onions and roughly chop the peanuts.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, 2 Tbsp of cornstarch, and a pinch of pepper until smooth. Cut the chicken breast into small, 1/2 inch cubes and toss to coat in the egg mixture.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until it is very hot, but not smoking (the oil should look wavy on the surface). To test whether or not the oil is hot enough, drop a bit of the egg mixture into the skillet. It should poof up and bubble furiously. Once the oil is very hot, add the egg coated chicken. Spread it out in the skillet and let it cook until golden brown on the bottom. Once golden, break up the pieces and flip them over. Cook a few minutes longer, or until golden on all sides and cooked through. Remove the cooked chicken from the skillet.
- Add the frozen broccoli florets to the hot skillet and cook for just a few minutes, or until it is mostly warmed through. Add the chopped bell pepper and cook for one to two minutes more, or just until the raw edge has been taken off (it should still be fairly crisp).
- Finally, add the chicken back to the skillet, along with the prepared sauce. Stir the skillet until everything is coated in the sauce and the sauce has become thick and bubbly (the heat should remain on medium-high). Stir in the chopped peanuts and sprinkle the sliced green onions over top. Serve with rice.
Step by Step Photos
Make the sauce first, so that it’s ready to go when you need it. In a bowl stir together 2 Tbsp oyster sauce, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp toasted sesame oil, 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1 clove of garlic (minced), 1 tsp cornstarch, and 2 Tbsp water.
I also chopped my red bell pepper and sliced my green onions ahead of time. It just makes life easier sometimes. Cut one large red bell pepper into 1/2 inch pieces and slice two green onions.
And roughly chop 1/3 cup dry roasted and unsalted peanuts. Chopping them allows you to use less because smaller pieces will spread throughout the dish better than large, whole peanuts.
To make the coating for the chicken, whisk together one large egg, 2 Tbsp cornstarch, and a pinch of pepper until smooth.
Cut one large chicken breast (about 3/4 lb.) into very small pieces (1/2 inch or so). Again, having more smaller pieces lets you have a little chicken in every bite, unlike having a few large chunks.
Add the chicken to the egg mixture and stir until it is well coated.
Add 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. It’s very important to wait until the oil is VERY hot before adding the chicken, or else the egg mixture will just slide right off and make a pancake on the bottom of the skillet. You can test the heat by dropping a little of the egg mixture into the skillet. It should immediately poof up and sizzle furiously. Once the oil is very hot, add the chicken and spread it out over the skillet. Let it cook for a couple minutes, undisturbed, so the bottom can brown.
Once the bottom has browned, break up the pieces, flip them over, and let them continue to cook until they’re browned all over and cooked through. The small pieces also helps the chicken cook through relatively quickly. Remove the cooked chicken from the skillet.
Add 1/2 lb. of frozen broccoli florets straight to the skillet. They’ll start to thaw and cook at the same time. They will continue to cook as you add the other ingredients, so don’t try to cook them through at this point. Just cook for a few minutes, so that they are mostly heated through (a little cold in the thicker parts is okay).
Now add the diced red bell pepper and cook for just a couple minutes more, or just until the raw edge has been taken off. They should still be fairly crisp.
Add the chicken back to the skillet, along with the prepared sauce. Keep the heat on medium-high the whole time. Stir the ingredients together so that everything is coated in sauce. As the sauce hits the hot skillet, it will begin to bubble and thicken.
OMG, it’s already looking so delicious!
Lastly, stir in the chopped peanuts and sprinkle the sliced green onions over top. (and you can turn off the heat) YUM!!
Please and thank you!