If you love Sichuan food, no doubt you have had the famous dish of Spicy Chicken with Peanuts, also known as Gong Bao Chicken. This is one of China’s more famous exports to the West…although I will say when prepared in the original Sichuan style it packs a punch that I have never experienced in Chinese cooking in the West. But this Gong Bao chicken recipe is one of the easier Sichuan recipes as the ingredients are generally easily accessible worldwide. And you can dial up (or down) the “ma la” heat as much as you like.
As I study more about Chinese cuisine and cooking, I have learned that almost all dishes have a story. Gong Bao Chicken is believed to be named after a governor of Sichuan during the Qing Dynasty. His name was Ding Baozhen, but he was known as Gong Bao, roughly translated as “palatial guardian.” During the Cultural Revolution when Ding and the former governors all fell out of favour, the dish was renamed “spicy chicken cubes” but in the 1980′s, in a return to its original name was permitted.
If you want to learn more about Sichuan food, the person to consult is Fuchsia Dunlop. Dunlop is an English woman who after having spent a great deal of time in China has emerged as the Western authority on Chinese cooking, particularly Sichuan. Her books have shed light on the mysteries of Sichuan cooking, the region’s unique ingredients and cooking styles. Her Sichuan Cookery
has become the English-language bible of Sichuan cooking.
Here I am sharing with you her Gong Bao Chicken recipe. Don’t be intimated by the length of the recipe. As in most Chinese cooking, the bulk of the work is in the chopping and dicing. Once it is all prepared, it’s just a matter of tossing it all together one by one in a wok.
Fuchsia Dunlop’s Gong Bao Chicken
Chicken (300–350g, with or without skin, dark or light meat….your preference)
Note: I prefer to use dark meat without skins as I think dark meat gives a more intense flavour
3 garlic cloves
An equivalent amount of ginger
5 spring onions, white
A handful of dried chillies (about 10)
2 tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns
Note: If you cannot find where you live, you can buy here, Peppercorns, Szechuan – 8 Oz
75g roasted peanuts
For the marinade
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp Shaoxing wine
Note: If you cannot find where you live you can buy here, SHAOHSING RICE COOKING WINE 2x750ML
1 1/2 tsp potato flour
For the sauce
1 tbsp caster sugar
3/4 tsp potato flour
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Chinkiang vinegar
Note: If you cannot find where you live you can buy here, CHINKIANG VINEGAR 2x21OZ
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp chicken stock or water
Cut the chicken as evenly as possible into 14cm strips, then cut these into small cubes. Place in a small bowl. Add the marinade ingredients together with one tablespoon of water, mix well and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
Peel and thinly slice the garlic and ginger and chop the spring onions into chunks as long as their diameter (to match the chicken cubes).
Snip the chilies in half or into sections. Discard their seeds as far as possible. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
Heat a seasoned wok over a high flame. Add the oil with the chilies and Sichuan pepper and stir-fry briefly until the chillies are darkening but not burnt (remove the wok from the heat if necessary to prevent overheating).
Quickly add the chicken and stir-fry over a high flame, stirring constantly. As soon as the chicken cubes have separated, add the ginger, garlic and spring onions and continue to stir-fry until they are fragrant and the meat just cooked through (test one of the larger pieces to make sure).
Give the sauce a stir and add it to the wok, continuing to stir and toss. As soon as the sauce has become thick and shiny, add the peanuts, stir them in and serve.