Easy Kung Pao Chicken
Sweet, sour and a little spicy, this meal tastes like home — specifically the home of Pearl Han, a talented Taiwanese American cook who naturally streamlined dishes while raising three kids and managing a busy career. Her younger daughter, Grace Han, shared this recipe: “quick, easy and my mom’s favorite.” Dried chiles sizzle in oil first to impart heat to the whole dish, then chicken browns in a single layer — no high-heat stir-frying necessary — to create a tasty caramelized crust before the pieces are flipped together. Coated in a dead-simple kung pao sauce that delivers the dish’s signature salty tang, the chicken begs to be spooned over steamed rice. Serve with stir-fried vegetables as well for a complete meal.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 1pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 3tablespoons soy sauce
- 2teaspoons cornstarch
- Salt and ground black or Sichuan pepper
- 1 ½tablespoons Chinkiang (black) vinegar or balsamic vinegar
- 2teaspoons sugar
- ¼cup neutral oil, such as grapeseed
- ½cup small dried red chiles (15 grams; see Tip)
Step 1Mix the chicken, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, and a big pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl until evenly coated. Let sit while you prepare the sauce.
Step 2Stir the vinegar, sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 teaspoon cornstarch in a small bowl.
Step 3Combine the oil and chiles in a wok or large nonstick skillet, and set over medium heat. When the chiles start to sizzle and brown, about 15 seconds, push them to one side of the pan. Add the chicken to the other side all at once and spread in a single, even layer. Cook, without moving the pieces, until the bottoms are dark golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. If the chiles start to blacken, put them on top of the chicken so that they don’t burn.
Step 4Using a large spatula, flip the chicken in portions. Cook just until the meat almost loses all of its pinkness, 1 to 2 minutes more. Stir the sauce and pour it into the pan. Stir until the sauce thickens and slicks the chicken evenly. Immediately transfer to a plate and serve hot.