Editor's Note: We're teaming up with our friends over at Food52 to bring you even more easy weeknight recipes. Food52 recipes will appear on this site every Tuesday and Thursday, and are carefully curated by the Serious Eats team. Check back on Serious Eats every weekday afternoon for a new quick and easy weeknight dinner idea from our own test kitchens, or from the good folks at Food52.
Kung Pao chicken is a dish often bastardized in Chinese-American eateries into a bland, stir-fried hodge podge of chicken, bell peppers, celery, and peanuts in a gloppy sweet soy-based sauce. The real deal, on the other hand, packs a flavorful punch; savory soy balanced with a touch of sweetness, a splash of dark Chinese vinegar for a fragrant acidity, and plenty of chilis and Sichuan peppercorns for that characteristic ma-la (hot and numbing) profile.
In this recipe from Food52, chicken thighs are diced into cubes before being marinated in a mixture of cornstarch and egg, a process called velveting, which renders the chicken pieces slippery and moist when they're later stir-fried. It also helps them to pick up plenty of the sauce.
After marinated, the dish comes together in a matter of minutes. Ginger, scallions, and garlic—the Chinese trinity—form the basis of the stir fry, while peanuts offer a crunchy counterpoint to the slippery chicken.