I Can’t Feel My Face When I’m With You, But I Love It: Kung Pao Chicken and Homemade Sichuan Chili Oil

Sichuan peppercorns have a unique flavor and “numbing” quality that makes food from this spicy province iconic and irresistible!

chinese-flag-small China

THE RAMBLE: WInner for Team Korea!

LET’S TALK ABOUT Sichuan Province in China (low-center on map). This area of China uses it’s own unique peppercorn in most of it’s food, from hot pots to Dan Dan Noodles to this Kung Pao Chicken. It is such a unique sensation, not so much spicy, but numbing. It is incredibly addicting. (from Nations Online Project)

China map

LET’S TALK ABOUT this dish. My husband would probably eat this every night. He asks for it all of the time, and any time I would ask what he wanted for dinner that week, he would always say this. Any time I would start dinner, he would ask if it were Kung Pao Chicken, so this is a must-have recipe for our Eastern recipes repertoire! I found it on Fried Chillies and they got this and adapted it from Bee Yinn Low’s Easy Chinese Recipes: From Dim Sum to Kung Pao, an amazing recipe book with all of our favorite Chinese recipes. She also has her website Rasa Malaysia with a ton of must-have recipes, which is my go-to for Chinese recipes. I adapt their recipes by adding veg and doubling the sauce. I also make my own chili oil from The Woks of Life that is just killer! You can usually find Sichuan peppercorns at Asian markets. After trying this, all other take-out will pale in comparison; we know by personal experience.

THE REVIEW:

If Chinese Black Vinegar isn’t at your Asian Market (it should be), then America’s Test Kitchen suggests using half rice vinegar and half balsamic vinegar, and that works pretty well. If you can’t find Sichuan peppercorns at your Asian market, you could just omit them and still make a really great chili oil. If, for some reason, you didn’t read the directions well enough and accidentally add your chili flakes to the rest of the ingredients in the oil, heat it up to about 250 degrees and then strain, that worked just fine for me, haha. Of course, this is what The Weekend is talking about in their song:

WHO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT making great Chinese food: Bee @rasamalaysia from her blog Rasa Malaysia, the family blog The Woks of Life @thewoksoflife, Marc @norecipes from his blog No Recipes, Chungah @damn_delicious from her blog Damn Delicious, Elaine @elaineseafish of China Sichuan Food, Caroline @misspickledplum from her blog Pickled Plum.

THE RECIPE:

I Can't Feel My Face When I'm With You, But I love It: Kung Pao Chicken and Homemade Sichuan Peppercorn Chili Oil. Winner for Team Korea!

I Can’t Feel My Face When I’m With You, But I love It: Kung Pao Chicken and Homemade Sichuan Peppercorn Chili Oil. Winner for Team Korea!

 

Homemade Sichuan Peppercorn Chili Oil

Adapted from Woks of Life, about 25 mins to make, Easy-level effort, makes 1 cup of oil.

1 cup neutral oil, such as sunflower

2 TBS Sichuan peppercorns

1 inch piece of cinnamon stick (Ceylon or even Saigon is ideal)

2 whole star anise

1/4 cup crushed red pepper flakes

  1. In a small sauce pan, add the oil, Sichuan peppercorns, cinnamon stick, and star anise. With a candy thermometer handy, slowly heat to 325 degrees over med-low heat, then remove from heat. Let cool down for 6 – 7 minutes, then strain the oil through a sieve, add the oil back to the sauce pan, or remove the peppercorns, cinnamon stick, and star anise with a slotted spoon.
  2. Then add the crushed red pepper flakes and steep in the hot oil. Once the oil starts to become fragrant “like popcorn”, as they describe, allow the oil to cool and keep in a glass container and store in the fridge, and use in ANYTHING from eggs to potatoes to stir fries.

 

Kung Pao Chicken

Adapted from Fried Chillies, serves 3-4, medium-level effort, about 45 mins to make

Chicken:

2 chicken breasts, sliced up very thinly

1 TBS Shaoxing rice wine

1 tsp cornstarch

Stir Fry:

2 TBS oil, divided

1 TBS Homemade Sichuan Peppercorn Chili Oil (store-bought works, or regular chili oil in a pinch)

2 cloves garlic, grated through microplane or rasp

1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated through microplane or rasp

4-8 dried red chillies, such as chili japones, whole or I prefer broken open, seeds discarded, and crushed (add however many depending how spicy you would like it)

1 small-medium zucchini, medium-large dice (about a heaping 1/2 cup)

1/2 large white onion, medium-large dice (about a heaping 1/2 cup)

1 small-medium red bell pepper, medium-large dice (about a heaping 1/2 cup)

1 large stalk celery, sliced lenghth-wise, then medium-large dice (about a heaping 1/2 cup)

1/4 heaping cup dry-roasted peanuts

Sauce:

3 TBS soy sauce

1 tsp dark soy sauce

1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine

2 tsp Chinese black vinegar (or use a 1:1 ratio of rice vinegar and balsamic vinegar, so 1 tsp of each)

2 tsp sugar

6 dashes white pepper

4 TBS water

1 tsp cornstarch

  1. Tenderize the chicken by mixing together rice wine and cornstarch in a medium mixing bowl, then add sliced chicken, toss to evenly coat. Allow to marinate for about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prep your Stir Fry ingredients, set aside, then mix together your Sauce ingredients in a small bowl, set aside.
  3. In a 12-inch frying pan, add 1/2 TBS of the oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add chicken and stir-fry until it turns opaque. Dish chicken out, set aside, then wash out the gunk in the bottom of the pan (this gunk will just make everything stick to the bottom and ruin the stir fry).
  4. Return skillet over high heat, and add remaining 1 1/2 TBS oil and add Sichuan Peppercorn oil, garlic and ginger. Using a spatula, stir fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add crushed chillies (this might tickle your throat a little! Maybe have some water handy). Keep everything moving in the pan, then add onions and zucchini and stir fry about 1 minute, then add peppers and celery, stir fry about another 30 seconds.
  5. Add the cooked chicken to the pan and stir everything together. Add the sauce and stir-fry until everything is evenly coated, and the sauce has slightly thickened, about 30 seconds. Add peanuts now and stir in, or dish out onto a platter and add top with peanuts. Serve with steamed white rice.
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