Kung Pao chicken
|Kung Pao chicken|
|Sichuan version of Gong Bao Chicken|
Kung Pao chicken, also transcribed as Gong Bao chicken (Chinese: 宫保雞丁; Mandarin Pinyin: Gōngbǎo Jīdīng; Wade–Giles: Kung1-pao3 Chi1-ting1; Jyutping: gung1 bou2 gai1 ding1), is a spicy stir-fry dish made with chicken, peanuts, vegetables, and chili peppers. The classic dish in Szechuan cuisine originated in the Sichuan Province of central-western China and includes Sichuan peppercorns. Although the dish is found throughout China, there are regional variations that are typically less spicy than the Sichuan serving. Kung Pao chicken is also a staple of westernized Chinese cuisine.
The dish is believed to be named after Ding Baozhen, a late Qing Dynasty official, a one-time governor of Sichuan. His title was Gongbao (Kung-pao; Chinese: 宫保; pinyin: Gōngbǎo; Wade–Giles: Kung1-pao3; literally "Palace Guardian"). The name "Kung Pao" chicken is derived from this title.
During the Cultural Revolution, the dish's name became politically incorrect because of its association with Ding. The dish was renamed "Fast-fried chicken cubes" (Hongbao Jiding) or "chicken cubes with seared chiles" (Hula Jiding) until its political rehabilitation in the 1980s.
Sichuan version 
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The original Sichuan version uses chicken as its primary ingredient. In this original version, diced chicken is typically mixed with a prepared marinade. The wok is seasoned and then chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns are flash fried to add fragrance to the oil. Then the chicken is stir fried and vegetables, along with peanuts, are added. Shaoxing wine is used to enhance flavor in the marinade.
Kung Pao chicken starts off with fresh, moist, unroasted peanuts or cashew nuts. These are often used instead of their pre-roasted versions. The peanuts or cashew nuts are dropped into the hot oil on the bottom of the wok first, then deep fried until golden brown before the other ingredients are added.
In Sichuan, or when preparing authentic Kung Pao chicken, only Sichuan-style chili peppers such as facing heaven pepper or seven stars pepper (Chinese: 七星椒; pinyin: Qīxīngjiāo; Wade–Giles: Ch'i1-hsing1-chiao1) are used. Smaller, thinner Sichuanese varieties may also be used.
The most important component of the dish is handfuls of Sichuan peppercorns. It is these peppercorns that give authentic Kung Pao chicken its distinctive numbing flavor. Use of hot and numbing flavor (Chinese: 麻辣味型; pinyin: Málà wèixíng; Wade–Giles: Ma2-la4 wei4-hsing2) is a typical element of Sichuan cooking.
Westernised versions 
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (September 2009)|
Westernised versions, usually called "Kung Pao chicken", commonly consist of diced marinated chicken stir-fried with skinless unsalted roasted peanuts; chopped, sliced, or diced red bell peppers (as well as other vegetables such as green bell peppers, celery, Chinese cabbage, water chestnuts, and carrots); sherry or rice wine; hoisin sauce; and chili peppers. Although chicken is traditionally used, seafood items such as shrimp or scallops, or other meats such as beef or pork, are sometimes used in place of the chicken (although typically only a single meat or seafood is used). It can also be prepared with tofu instead of meat.
In order to prepare Western-style Kung Pao, bits of diced raw chicken are marinated, then dusted with cornstarch, and then a Chinese wok is heated on a high flame, without oil, until it is quite hot. A swish of the ladle spreads a couple of teaspoons of peanut oil, then the chicken is flash fried in the hot oil to bring out the flavor of very slightly charred or grilled meat, but not so long that it loses its juices or tenderness. Next, grated garlic and the vegetables are added, followed by Chinese rice wine, along with a sweet sauce. Some sesame oil is added, peanuts are added.
Kung Pao chicken is a very popular staple of North American Sichuan-style Chinese restaurants, and many recommend using it as a measure of the skills of a chef. In Australia a heavily contested debate still rages over who first introduced the dish.
Whereas the original Chinese version of the dish includes Sichuan peppercorns as an integral ingredient, the American version does not. From 1968 until 2005, it was illegal to import Sichuan peppercorns into the United States. They were viewed as potential carriers of citrus canker, a tree disease that can potentially harm citrus crops. The ban has now been lifted in light of new processing methods. However, the 37-year ban resulted in a distinct American version of the recipe that does not incorporate Sichuan peppercorns.
In pop-culture 
- Qin's Moon animation series mentions cooking of Kung Pao chicken as a special "kitchen-style" martial performance (Season 4, episode 34).
- "Ding Baozhen—an outstanding minister of the Qing Dynasty". Replay.waybackmachine.org. 2008-08-20. Retrieved 2012-01-23.
- "Savoring the Spice in Kung Pao Chicken". NPR. Retrieved 2012-01-23.
- "Gong Bao Chicken/Kung Pao Chicken 宫保雞丁/宫爆雞丁 recipe & photos". MaMaChineseCooking.com. 2009-06-22. Retrieved 2012-01-23.
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