Lucky us - we have so many choices when looking for a recipe. But how do you know which to choose?
When I need a recipe I start online with a basic Google search. I'll run a food blog search, too, if the Google search seems inadequate but Google does a decent job of picking up recipes from food blogs. Open several browser tabs with a different recipe in each and skim them. I immediately make cuts based on the ingredients or how convoluted they sound, or if it's immediately apparent that the recipe author hasn't a clue about what they're doing.
In the case of searching for recipe for Kung Pao I read 10 or so recipes. I immediately closed out recipes that called for powdered ginger and carrots since neither have a place here. I also jettisoned a few that called for marinating the chicken. Really? you're thinking. What could possibly be bad about a marinade? Nothing. I just find I don't tend to cook recipes where I have to make both a marinade and a sauce. I prefer to sauté the chicken with lots of garlic and ginger and let flavors infuse that way. Also, it takes time and I wanted a quicker recipe.
The last few were discredited for listing water as a sauce ingredient or for calling for just a few teaspoons of liquids for the sauce. I like to have lots of sauce to drizzle on my rice. Plus, I'm still getting used to cooking on my carbon steel wok from Chinatown. It seems a bit thirsty and sauces dissipate quickly. I can almost hear the water sauce recipe author shouting, "I told you that you needed water to compensate for the heat of the wok!"
In the end I chose a recipe that I had stashed in my cookbook from a 2002 Food and Wine magazine. I also like Rasa Malaysias recipes, but in this case she calls for Shaoxing wine as an ingredient and I have been unable to procure it. Shaoxing wine is a Chinese rice wine. In the past I have substituted mirin or dry sherry or a combination, but I want to find the real thing. I'll have to get help next time I'm in Chinatown.
Kung Pao Chicken (宫爆鸡丁)
Print recipe only here
Mix together in a small bowl:
* ½ cup orange juice
* ¼ cup rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
* ¼ cup soy sauce or tamari
* 1 T sugar
* 2 t cornstarch
Cut chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks, pat dry and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt. Reserve.
In a wok or large skillet heat:
* 1 T canola oil
Add to the wok and sauté:
* 8 small dried red chilis, or 2-3 t chili flakes
* 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped or pressed
* 2 T fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
Add the chicken to the wok and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until browned all over. Transfer to a bowl and reserve.
Add 1 T canola oil to the wok and heat. When hot add:
* ½ red bell pepper, sliced in thin strips
* ½ green bell pepper, sliced in thin strips
* 1 small onion, halved and sliced crosswise
When the peppers have softened (allow about 5 minutes cooking time), add the chicken back to the wok and stir to combine. Heat thru and cook everything together for a few minutes.
Add the sauce to the pan and cook until thickened, another minute or two. Stir in:
* ½ cup roasted peanuts or cashews
* 1 t sesame oil
Taste for seasoning and serve with basmati or other long-grain rice.