Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Kung Pao Chicken

I've had this recipe bookmarked in Cooking Light for about a month. 

Last night I finally got around to making it. I looked up the recipe online at work to see what I'd need to grab at the store on the way home - I only needed some snow peas and red bell peppers, everything else we had. I wrote out a post-it (I live my life by post-its) and also added Ziploc bags to the list because we just ran out that morning.

With post-it in hand, I braved the grocery store. There was a line to get into the parking lot at 5pm! I've never seen the store so packed - lots of people stocking up for the big storm. I always think its funny to see what other people deem "necessities" during weather disasters. As I walked in, there was a women walking out with a 30-pack of Budweiser in each hand, and no food. I guess she'll be on a liquid diet tomorrow. Another woman had obscene amounts of cold cuts and Little Debbie packaged goods in her cart, and nothing else. Interesting. I kind of felt like a hobo walking into the store, I was wearing my full length, hooded jacket (I call it my sleeping bag with arms) and Uggs - but then I saw at least five other women wearing identical outfits. When it comes to being cold, I'd rather be warm than look cute. Sometimes I try to wear something non-frumpy, but if I get cold I always end up throwing on a big sweater. I'll work on improving that next winter.

I left the grocery story with about 25 items, even though I only needed 3. And as I drove home I realized that I didn't even remember the Ziploc bags, even though they were on my post-it! I guess I was too distracted by the pancake mix and other "necessities" I saw as I walked through the aisles.

This recipe was very fast and easy, once you do the prep work (chopping the veggies and chicken, measuring sauce ingredients into a bowl) you're basically done. 

Kung Pao Chicken
(from December 2010 Cooking Light)

Prep by chopping all vegetables and chicken, mincing the garlic, and measuring ingredients for the sauce.

(I'm not posting a picture of my raw chicken chopped up, because who really want to look at raw chicken!?)

Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions to pan and saute for about 5 minutes or until softened.

Add garlic, saute about 30 seconds - 1 minute, then add chicken and saute about 3 minutes or until chicken begins to brown.

Stir your sauce mixture with a whisk until sugar dissolves, then add to the pan and bring to a boil.

Add bell peppers and snow peas to pan and cook about 2 minutes, until vegetables are crisp-tender and sauce thickens.


I served this over brown rice, and topped with some chopped peanuts.

Here's Pat, ready to dig in:

Pat doesn't really like Chinese food (I know, crazy right??) but was excited for this dish because he knew it was all fresh ingredients and it wouldn't contain any MSG. He really liked this and said it was a definite do-again. He loved how the onions were cooked until soft but the peppers and snow peas were still a little crispy. I liked this dish a lot too - the red pepper flakes certainly gave this a kick, and the peanuts on top added a nice flavor and more crunch. I bet this is one of those dishes that will taste even better the second day, once the flavors have really melded.

Original recipe here.

I followed the Cooking Light recipe, but chose to double the amount of vegetables (since I like a lot of veggies and its better for you!). For all you veggie-heads, this would be awesome with tofu instead of chicken!


  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 3 small onions chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (or 1/2 tsp fresh minced ginger if you have it)
  • 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 large red bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 2 1/2 cups snow peas, trimmed
  • 2 tbsp chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts (for garnish)

  1. Heat sesame oil in a large skillet oven medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; saute 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic; saute 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add chicken; saute 3 minutes or until chicken begins to brown.
  2. Combine 3/4 cup water and the next 5 ingredients (through crushed red pepper), stirring with a whisk until sugar dissolves. Add water mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Add bell pepper and snow peas to pan; cook for 2 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender and sauce thickens. Sprinkle with peanuts.