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[Photograph: Blake Royer]

If you've ordered takeout from a Chinese restaurant in your life, you've probably either seen or tasted Kung Pao chicken. And I'll admit that it's a dish I've loved and still enjoy. But the Westernized version is missing the key ingredient that is the star of the authentic Sichuan version, known more commonly as Gong Bao chicken: Sichuan peppercorns. It's their unique, mouth-numbing effect that gives the dish its spicy, warming quality.

Even if you can't find Sichuan peppercorns, the ease and depth of flavor in this dish, from Mighty Spice Cookbook via Leite's Culinaria, are impressive—and none of the other ingredients are hard to find. While the chicken marinates in a mixture of soy sauce and cornstarch, which will eventually thicken the dish, peanuts are toasted to a deep golden brown. From there, it's five quick minutes of cooking while the aromatic ingredients like ginger, garlic, and chiles build lots of flavor very quickly.

Get the Recipe

Gong Bao Chicken ยป

About the author: Blake Royer is a food writer, photographer, and filmmaker based in Chicago; he has been writing for Serious Eats since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter @blakeroyer.

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