Dinner Tonight: Gong Bao Ji Ding (Kung Pao Chicken, via Food52)
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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.
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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.