The real Kung Po spicy chicken

February 25, 2015

No chicken dish has been bastardized as much as Kung Po chicken. There are so many variations to this dish that no one can quite agree what it should rightly taste like, ranging from the kitsch Americana take away version that’s teeth decaying sweet to the Cantonese version that uses bell peppers and taste rather bland.

Truth is stranger than fiction. Kung Po is not even Chinese. It’s a Khalkha Mongol specialty which is known as hor akrul. Roughly translated it means pickled spicy chicken – to make good Kung Po. You need to prepare the chicken in the Mongolian way first. This is what gives the dish 99% of it’s bang! The frying and condiments is just a after thought. The original recipe calls for wild licorice root – this is a condiment that I have reproduced with cinnamon and dried raisins.

Start brining the chicken – be calm. Don’t be intimidated, it’s easy…I walk you thru – cut half a chicken up. Put it in a zip loc plastic bag with two rounded tablespoon of salt, two teaspoon of cinnamon powder, sugar, two cups of cold water (I prefer honey as it imparts a much more rounded flavor). Agitate it a bit to infuse brine solution into muscle fibers of chicken and bung in the freezer for two hours.

Brining is the mongol field craft of preserving meat using permafrosting – it’s unique to only Mongols, once they hunt an animal, they skin it, cut it up, brine it, stuff it all in the gut of the animal and bury it six inches beneath the earth. The ground in the steppes is a natural refrigerator, that’s how meat is traditionally stored and transported since the time of great Khans. The world’s first military meals on the go! That is also incidentally how the dish acquires it’s flavor thru brining and not cooking – it’s a professional kitchen secret.

Now you know why the vast majority of Kung Po taste bland and cardboardish.

In a separate bowl, add the following. 7 dried chilies sliced up, less if you desire it to be milder soaked in brown vinegar for two hours.

In a second bowl, two tablespoon of chili oil. You can buy this in NTUC. 1 teaspoon of chili powder. 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder. Two tablespoon of dark thick soya sauce. 1 tablespoon of light soya sauce. Half a tablespoon of sesame sauce.

After two hours remove the chicken. Drain brine solution. Run chicken under tap. Pat dry. Cut into small pieces. Run marinade over chicken.

Add 4 tablespoon oil into skillet. Fry one large white onion with 3 garlic and one thumb ginger thinly sliced (don’t over do it with the ginger). Once brown.

Add chicken stir fry. Cut another onion into large squares. Add after 5 minutes for crunchiness. Crush one cup of chasew nuts. Don’t do like the restaraunt – you want the nut oil to add complexity to the flavor. Add half a cup of dried raisins for that tangy sweet flavor. Remove dried chili from vinegar squeeze excess out. And throw in and continue frying for another 5 minutes. Dash of black pepper.

During frying. Use high heat. You must heard this sound….otherwise it’s no good!

Do not add any salt, as brine solution has already infused chicken with salt flavoring.

Serve with hot rice. Guaranteed one million times better than anything you ever tasted in even the best Chinese restaurant in the world. I am not kidding.

This is the real Kung Po!


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