For some reason, Kung Pao chicken puts me in a US-sitcom state of mind. It seems like the kind of Chinese dish that is ordered by a sextet of New York pals in between jokes, or picked over by a quartet of Manhattan ladies while they ponder the state of their love lives. I’m sure it never featured on the menu in any of the suburban Chinese restaurants I ate in as a child.
So I was thrilled when it made an appearance in our Dinner and a Movie – Chinese Legends feature
. This was my chance to have my own sitcom moment. Cue the laugh track and let’s get cooking.
I don’t generally cook very much Asian food – the fact that I couldn’t locate my wok is testament to that fact. We’re so spoiled for choice where I live that it seems easier to head to one of the many local restaurants than cook it myself at home. However, that being said, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I had most of the ingredients required already in the cupboard – the Szechuan peppercorns were kindly supplied by our food editor, Angela.
The first step was marinating the chicken – easily done and it gave me time to prep the rest of the ingredients and get the rice-cooker started. From there, it all came together pretty quickly. My lack of a wok meant that I had to use a large frying pan instead – oil spattered everywhere – and a new wok is now on my shopping list.
Keen-eyed readers will note that the spring onions in my version look suspiciously like pieces of green capsicum. That is because they are, in fact, pieces of green capsicum. The peanuts are also slightly cashew-shaped – right again! However, these substitutions didn’t affect the main flavours of the dish, which Mr Ed declared delicious. He’s not known for his love of chilli, so I reduced the chilli from 8 to 6 and got away with it.
What’s your favourite Chinese dish? Do you always follow a recipe exactly, or are you happy to substitute ingredients when you run short of something? We look forward to hearing from you. Editor, Feast
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