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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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