The inspiration behind this truly tongue tingling, spicy chicken dish is the cook and food writer Fuchsia Dunlop. She specialises in writing about the food of China and has written books on the subject as well as writng articles for newspapers and magazines. I came across a recipe of hers on her blog, www.fuchsiadunlop.com which I have been dying to try out for a while now and last night I did, well sort of.
As Mr.Scott was out last night I thought I would treat myself to a Chinese meal, but one that I cook for myself. I am , to put it bluntly, not the biggest take-away fan. And, I am a quick cook so it’s DIY for me all the way!
The recipe which appealed to me is called “Gong Bao chicken with peanuts”, also known as “Kung Pao chicken”. Now, I am not claiming to have made this exact dish but simply my interperation of it based on which of the ingredients I happened to have in the store cupboard. Apologies to Fuchsia Dunlop if she thinks I have completely ruined her dish!
Firstly, what I did not have were peanuts. Secondly, no potato flour, Lastly, no Chinkiang vinegar.
I decided to skip the nuts, add cornflour and replace Chinese vinegar with balsamic. I added some chestnut mushrooms, which I love too.
What I absolutely adore though, and what I did happen to have were the tiny dried bird’s eye chillies and the Szechuan pepper. If you haven’t had the pleasure in tasting a dish with this particular pepper berry, then please do so! It is like nothing else. The flavour makes your mouth tingle but it is also highly aromatic and combines brilliantly with the heat of the dried chillies. Have I sold it to you, or are you going to stop reading right now?!
My worry about posting this recipe is that you may not like the sound of the heat and tingle sensation. So, to reassure you, I do believe the dish would taste pretty good without the Szechuan pepper and the dried chilli. It would just be a milder, less dazzling affair. Go on, live a little and give it a try……….!!!
Chicken and rice - with a kick
For the marinade:
- 2 tsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp Chinese rice wine
- 1 tsp cornflour
- 1 tbsp water
For the sauce:
- 3 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp cornflour
- 1 tsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 3 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp water
To assemble the dish:
- 2 chicken breasts, skinless cut into cubes
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 inch ginger peeled and grated
- 5 spring onions sliced
- 8 chestnut mushrooms quartered
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
- 8 dried bird's eye chillies crushed
For the chicken marinade:
Make the marinade and place the chicken into into it for anything from 15 minutes to 4 hours - as much time as you have
Next, prepare the sauce and set aside
- Grind the chillies and Szechuan pepper in a pestle and mortar
- Prepare the mushrooms and spring onions
- Heat the oil in a wok until smoking then add in the garlic and ginger and let it colour slightly before adding in the spring onions, mushrooms, chicken and marinade, chilli and pepper mix
Cook on a high heat until the chicken turns opaque ( 3 mins approx ), then add the sauce and continue to cook for another couple of minutes. It won't take more than 5 minutes to cook from start to finish
Serve with steamed rice and some sliced cucumber