Have you ever wondered: is Kung Pao actually healthy?
And while that question keeps popping out on your mind every time you go to that Chinese restaurant in your neighborhood, I can absolutely answer it with a: Yes!
What made me so sure that this Chinese cuisine is not only tasty but also healthy? Well, before looking into the details of how hearty this one delicious Asian dishes, let us first see the complete story behind Kung Pao chicken.
What’s Kung Pao anyway?
Kung Pao chicken has some other names, Kung Po and Gong Bao. The unique name of this well-known Chinese foods was given by Ding Baozhen who lived between 1820 to 1886. This man was the governor of the Sichuan Province in China. Gongbao was the title given to him which later used to name the special chicken dish. During Cultural Revolution, Maoist radicals renamed this Chinese cooking into Hongbao Jiding. In English, it means fast-fried chicken cubes or chicken cubes with seared chiles.
Nowadays, this dish uses Chinese chicken as the main ingredient. Original Kung Pao version uses diced chicken breasts mixed with chicken marinade. This version comes from its birthplace, Sichuan Province.
So, how does it taste? Kung Pao comes with a strong kick from the first bite, thanks to the Shaoxing wine used in the marinating process.
It originally uses cooking oil that gains nice fragrance from Sichuan peppercorns and chili peppers – which were first used to season the wok before cooking the Kung Pao. Basically, making Kung Pao isn’t that hard. You simply need to stir-fry the chicken along with vegetables and chicken peanuts.
Can you imagine how good they’d be?
Nuts used to make the perfect Chinese Kung Pao is cashew nuts – unroasted, moist, and fresh. If you cannot find cashews, peanuts are good too. To make excellent original Kung Pao, you must first make roasted peanuts by dropping them into hot oil to the bottom of the wok. Deep fry them until they turn golden brown. Then, you can add the rests of the ingredients.
Though, there are many versions of Kung Pao these days. If the authentic Kung Pao uses chickens, modern versions use some other meats like frog legs and shrimp. For instance, Western-style Kung Pao uses different ingredients for the dish. Cornstarch, sugar, chicken broth, garlic, ginger, orange juice or orange to name a few. They’d also add salt, pepper to enrich the taste.
Like the side ingredients, the main star does vary as well. Sometimes, they’d use fish, duck, pork, or tofu instead of chicken. Even so, they’ve got such an incredible flavor still.
The Szechuan cuisine’s ingredients
Nah, now you’ve got a good grip of the Kung Pao’s origin. What’s next?
Hmm, how about a simple guide on making your own Kung Pao at home? Sounds good?
Alright. Before starting, you gotta know all the ingredients needed to make the original Kung Pao based on Chinese recipes and some other versions of Kung Pao. Below are complete things you need to make the best Chinese food recipe with spicy, sweet, and salty flavor.
First, you need to prepare the sauce to marinate your skinless chicken breasts. To create perfect taste on your boneless skinless chicken, create a mixture of baking soda, cornstarch, dry sherry or white vinegar or Chinese cooking wine, and baking soda.
Next, when you sure that your chicken is completely marinated, fry it and continue stir-frying with the other ingredients. Using rice wine or light soy to marinate chicken thigh or other parts of chicken you desire, you will get an outstanding chicken recipe with amazing flavor. Those marinating ingredients will coat the stir-fried chicken and seal the moisture to stay inside the chicken. The chicken will then turn to beautiful golden color but won’t get overcooked, so you will absolutely make the perfect Kung Pao.
Nah, it’s time for the sauce to create magic on your Kung Pao chicken recipe. Six essential ingredients you should use in making the perfect sauce begins with chicken stock or broth with low sodium. Prepare light soy sauce with low sodium – since the regular one will be too salty for the dish.
Don’t forget to add dark soy sauce that’d enhance the flavor and make your chicken look even tastier. Forth of the sauce ingredients is hoisin sauce that will add depth to the taste. Next is Chinese black vinegar, or you can replace it with balsamic vinegar in great quality.
Your Kung Pao sauce will be extremely tasty when you add Shaoxing or Chinese wine. If you don’t have this sauce, replace it with red wine vinegar, gin, dry sherry, or apple cider vinegar. When stir-frying your chicken in the wok, add some complementary ingredients like green onions, red pepper, green bell pepper.
You also can’t skip sliced carrots, zucchini, diced celery, and the legendary roasted peanuts for extraordinary Kung Pao. However, you’re free to replace the chicken with tofu, beef, or shrimp. You can also remove the meats and add more vegetables to make vegetarian Kung Pao.
What’s inside the Kung Pao bowl
With the entire ingredients used in the easy recipe above, do yo still have doubts in Kung Pao as one of the healthiest Chinese dish out there? From the food recipes I’ve discussed before, we can see that Kung Pao contains saturated fat, cholesterol, fat, and sodium.
You may want to think twice before having Kung Pao for your dinner if you’re currently suffering from high cholesterol or diabetes. Even so, this Chinese food comes with essential amino acids, minerals, and vitamins that are useful for your body. The acids offered by Kung Pao comes in a large dose.
Some essential amino acids you can get from this tasty food are lysine, threonine, valine, and leucine. Since your body cannot produce some acids on their own, you’d need to get them by consuming foods like Kung Pao.
Another good thing offered by Kung Pao is called niacin. What is it and how do we need it in our body? Niacin is excellent in helping our body converting foods to energy. This substance is especially crucial for our vision and skin health. Next stop is selenium. (Yup, Kung Pao has it all! Awesome, right?)
When you eat Kung Pao and your body digests the mineral, it will unite with the protein inside to produce the Selenoproteins. That substance will be a great helper to your thyroid and immune function, as well as antioxidants. What’s much better is that it helps in fighting cancer and heart disease.
Besides, Kung Pao comes with fiber and carbohydrates given by the peanuts and chicken or other meats. A serving of this meal plan comes with 9.7 grams protein, 6.8 grams carbohydrates, and 1.5 grams of fiber. Those three elements are all crucial to help your body works properly by providing enough energy.
Kung Pao also comes with Vitamin A that protects cornea, prevent dry eyes, and promote better night vision. This tasty dish also offers Vitamin K that will help our body to clot the blood in better way. By consuming Kung Pao, your body will also gain Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, riboflavin, thiamin, and pantothenic acid.
Are you still doubting Kung Pao’s rich nutrients?
Kung Pao chicken vs Szechuan chicken
Chinese cuisine is not limited to Kung Pao only. There are various dishes for different events and seasons. Among the yummy chaos, there’s another well-known dish called Szechuan. What differs it from Kung Pao is, while the latter is a name of a Chinese dish, Szechuan itself is simply one of many Chinese cuisine styles that comes from Sichuan Province – as well as Kung Pao.
While Kung Pao is usually made with vegetables, Szechuan peppers, nuts, and chicken, Szechuan is normally a little more complicated. It’s made of vegetables, Szechuan peppers, mushrooms, pork, beef, yogurt, rabbit, and herbs. If you can only cook Kung Pao with stir-fry method, Szechuan often involves stir-frying method along with steaming and braising.
Taste-wise, Kung Pao and Szechuan are completely the opposite. The first cuisine comes with nutty, sweet, spicy, and strong flavors. There are also particular seasonings you can distinguish while eating Kung Pao. On the other hand, Szechuan tastes especially strong with no specific flavor you can easily differentiate. One important thing that makes it special and different from Kung Pao is the use of yogurt. However, you can still find these seven flavors when you eat Szechuan cuisine if you try a bit harder: spicy, salty, aromatic, pungent, sour, bitter, and sweet.
Authentic Homemade Kung Pao Recipe (Gluten-free)
Here’s the bonus for you, sweeties! Now, you can make your very own Kung Pao at home for teh family’s mouthwatering dinner. Prepare the ingredients below and follow the cooking steps that will help you perfecting your dinner.
Ingredients to marinate the chicken:
- 1 tablespoon of mirin
- 1 tablespoon of gluten-free soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
- 1 pound of diced boneless and skinless chicken
Ingredients of the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons of gluten-free soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon of gluten-free hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon of palm sugar or granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon of grounded Sichuan pepper
Complementary ingredients when you stir-fry your chicken:
- 2 tablespoons of peanut oil
- 1 tablespoon of canola oil or vegetable oil
- 12 dried red chilies or less if you cannot take spicy foods
- 4 cloves of garlic, mince them
- 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger that has been grated
- 5 green onions, slice them thinly
- ½ cup of peanuts that are unsalted and dry roasted
Making your Kung Pao chicken:
- Whisk the marinating ingredients in mixing bowl and make sure that the cornstarch dissolves Add chicken to the mixture and stir it to coat the chicken evenly. Set it aside and marinate for fifteen minutes.
- Whisk the sauce ingredients in another mixing bowl. This time as well, make sure your cornstarch dissolves
- Heat the large skillet or wok over the high heat.
- Add the oils and swirl your wok. Toss in and stir-fry your chilies for a minute.
- When the chilies get darken, add chicken along with the marinade to wok then stir-fry about four to five minutes until you turn the chicken to golden brown.
- Toss in onions, ginger, and garlic, and continue stir-frying for a minute.
- Add sauce to wok then stir again to coat your chicken. Add peanuts and stir-fry again for extra two minutes.
- All done! You are ready to feed everyone with your five-star Kung Pao!