More-Veggie Kung Pao Chicken

More-Veggie Kung Pao Chicken

Growing up there was a ‘fancy’ Chinese restaurant in town that we would frequent on special occasions. They had big lazy-susans in the center of the table for easy family-style dining, which were very exciting for children. It was there that I fell in love with kung pao chicken. I loved the spicy sauce, combination of chicken and veggies, and crunchy peanuts.

Since I left home, I have not been able to find a kung pao chicken that compares. Typical Chinese takeout places make it too gloopy and without any spice. To satisfy my cravings I have started making my own using this recipe from Serious Eats as a guide.

When we recieved bell peppers and green beans in our CSA box a few weeks ago I knew I could make a really good, slightly more vegetable forward, kung pao chicken. While green beans are not usually a part of kung pao chicken, they are one of my favorite additions to asian dishes. They stir-fry well, add a nutritional component, and soak up the spicy flavors well.

This recipe has a lot of prep but the cooking time is fast so don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients or prep! I suggest prepping everything before you start cooking because the cooking goes quickly.

First, we marinate the chicken in a little soy sauce, dry sherry, sugar, sesame oil, cornstarch, salt and pepper. This is not a liquidy marinade so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t look like very much. The point is to give the chicken a boost of flavor without soaking it so much that it won’t brown when stir-fried. Let the chicken marinate for about 20 minutes.

While the chicken is marinating, prep everything else. Cut the bell peppers into about ¾ inch pieces and cut the green beans in half or thirds depending on how long they are.

Mix up the sauce so it has time for the cornstarch to dissolve. The sauce is similar to the marinade. Soy sauce, dry sherry, vinegar, chicken stock (or water), sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch. I used water instead of chicken stock because I wasn’t going to open a can of stock for 2 tablespoons. Mark Bittman often says you can use water instead of chicken stock in most recipes and I tend to agree here. When you are only using 2 tablespoons who could possibly notice the difference?

The last bit of prep is to prepare the aromatics. Lots of garlic, ginger, scallions, and red pepper flakes.

Prep is done; time to cook! First, cook the chicken in a really hot pan. Don’t move the chicken around much so it has a chance to brown. Cook for about 2 minutes, stir to flip the pieces, and cook for another 2 minutes. The chicken should be browned but slightly raw in the center. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Next, we wipe out the pan, heat up more oil, and cook the vegetables. We want to give the peppers a head start, so cook them first for 3 minutes and then add the green beans. Cook until browned in spots. Then add the peanuts.

Now it is time to put it all together! Add the aromatics to the pan and cooking for 30 seconds. Then, add the chicken and the sauce. Cook until the sauce thickens and chicken is cooked through. Serve with brown rice.

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More-Veggie Kung Pao Chicken

This more-veggie kung pac chicken is a healthier alternative to take-out. Green beans are a great addition to the customary bell peppers. I have suggested a range for the spice level but feel free to adjust to taste. Recipe inspired by Serious Eats.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author the brave radish

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into ¾ inch pieces
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dry sherry
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp roasted sesame oil
  • ½ tsp cornstarch

Sauce

  • 1 tbls soy sauce
  • 1 tbls dry sherry
  • 1 tbls white vinegar
  • 2 tbls water or chicken stock
  • 1 tbls sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsps cornstarch

Stir Fry

  • 3 tbls vegetable or peanut oil divided
  • 4 medium bell peppers cut into ¾ inch pieces
  • ½ lbs green beans cut in half
  • ½ cup dry roasted peanuts
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp minced ginger I grated mined
  • 1 scallion white and light green parts only
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Marinate the chicken in soy sauce, dry sherry, sugar, sesame oil, cornstarch, salt and pepper. This is not a liquidy marinade so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t look like very much. The point is to give the chicken a boost of flavor without soaking it so much that it won’t brown when stir-fried. Let the chicken marinate for about 20 minutes.
  2. While the chicken is marinating, prep everything else. Cut the bell peppers into about ¾ inch pieces and cut the green beans in half or thirds depending on how long they are.
  3. Mix up the sauce so it has time for the cornstarch to dissolve and set aside.
  4. Prepare the aromatics by combining the garlic, ginger, scallions, and red pepper flakes in a bowl.
  5. Cook the chicken by heating 1 tbls oil in a large skillet or wok until smoking. Add the chicken in a single layer and cook for 2 minutes. Don’t move the chicken around much so it has a chance to brown. Stir to flip the pieces and cook for another 2 minutes. The chicken should be browned but slightly raw in the center. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  6. Next, we wipe out the pan for the vegetables. Heat 2 tbls oil in the skillet again until smoking. Peppers cook longer than green beans so give them a head start. Add the peppers and cook for 3 minutes, and then add the green beans. Stir occasionally but give the veggies a chance to brown. Cook until browned in spots and green beans are tender.
  7. Add the peanuts to the pan with the veggies and stir to combine.
  8. Make a hole in the center of the veggies and add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and red pepper flakes. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  9. Give the sauce a quick stir to combine any cornstarch that may have settled. Add the chicken and sauce to the pan. Combine and cook for about a minute until the sauce thickens and the chicken is cooked through.
  10. Serve with rice.

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