My Kung Pao Chicken

Chinese New Year and Kung Pao Chicken

Chinese New Year and Kung Pao Chicken.  Today we welcome in the Chinese New Year 2019 the year of the pig. This year to celebrate I have made a trio of Sichuan inspired dishes. A vegetarian Mapo tofu, spicy Sichuan Salt and Pepper Prawns and today’s recipe the classic Kung Pao Chicken. Now you should beware many western versions of this lack the serious dual hit of fiery red chilli and the mouth tingling Sichuan pepper. In fact Sichuan peppers were banned from America for quite sometime? The US version is often just a variant of General Tso’s Chicken with carrots, onions and bell peppers in a sweet and sour sauce. You will find Western versions are often much tamer than the authentic dish.

Why is it called Kung Pao Chicken?

Kung Pao chicken (  宫保鸡丁 ) is believed to be named after a Governor of Sichuan province who held the official title ‘ Gongbao ‘ or palace guardian. I’m sure you have seen the similarity already. Because of this Imperial connection it was renamed during the famous Cultural Revolution. The new name was the rather less catchy ‘ fast fried chicken cubes ‘. It’s more famous name was restored in the nineteen eighties.

Authentic Kung Pao Chicken

You make real thing from stir-fried soy marinated chicken, leeks and raw peanuts. Your flavour comes from Sichuan peppercorns and red chillies. They are first heated in hot oil with perhaps some ginger and garlic. Then you serve the finished dish with simply steamed rice.

Sichuan Pepper
Sichuan pepper

Happy Chinese New Year

If you find my Sichuan recipes a little too fierce remember you can always reduce the amount of Sichuan peppercorns and / or red chillies. If you you like something less spicy altogether why not try some of my other Chinese recipes over the celebrations? Classic roast Char sui Pork, my version of sweet and sour Cantonese Pork, and the perfect bowl of rice. Or what about delicious Beef in Black Bean and Garlic sauce and slow-braised Lamb with Ginger. Whatever you choose I wish you a prosperous Chinese New Year. Watch out it won’t be long before I post another recipe from one of my favourite cuisines.

My Kung Pao Chicken
My Kung Pao Chicken
You can exchange the thighs with chicken breast if you prefer just cook a little less.

Spicy Sichuan Salt and Pepper Prawns

My spicy Sichuan salt and pepper king prawns are the type of recipe I just love to eat and share. So it had to be the next recipe in this year’s celebration of the upcoming Chinese New Year. Be prepared, however, even though they have a spicy kick they are very addictive. The prawns are quickly deep-fried in the lightest coating then seasoned with my blend of salt, chilli, and pungent Sichuan pepper. If you like salt and pepper squid, you can substitute thinly sliced Calamari as an alternative. The result is mouth watering and delicious. Enjoy

Sichuan Cuisine

This spicy salt blend is typical Sichuan Chinese cuisine. Sichuan cooking typically uses lots of strong flavours such as chilli bean paste, chilli oil, and Sichuan peppercorns. Authentic Sichuan salt is obtained from local springs and does not contain iodine, but I use sea salt as an alternative and there is no major difference in taste. Sichuan dishes are often very hot, and the peppercorns produce a slight tingling sensation on the lips.

Spicy Sichuan Salt and Pepper Mix

You will find this mix is great as a rub for seasoning pork or chicken, like chicken wings, and can be used as a dry dip as well as with seafood like king prawns or calamari. If you don’t want to deep fry your prawns, you can stir fry them in their shells in a wok and add the Sichuan salt and pepper mix a couple of minutes before serving.

60 gram Sea Salt

10 gram Sichuan Pepper

5 gram dried Chilli Flakes

3 gram ground Star Anise

Heat the Sichuan peppercorns and sea salt in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-low heat, until the salt starts to turn grey. Toss the pan occasionally to stop the peppercorns from burning. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Grind the mixture in a pestle and mortar with the chilli flakes and Star anise. Store in a dry air-tight container and use as required.

Sichuan Prawns
Sichuan Salt and Pepper King Prawns
For this recipe you will need King prawns with the head on, that have had the shells removed and been deveined. You can get these from good fish-mongers or large supermarkets.
Mapo tofu

Vegetarian Mapo Tofu

Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐) is a very popular Sichuan Chinese dish made from tofu, Douchi or fermented black beans, rice wine, pungent Sichuan peppers and a double hit of chilli flakes and Douban, a chilli and bean paste. Classically the dish is made with ground beef or pork and so spicy as to make the diner sweat. In this recipe, I have substituted roughly chopped Shiitake mushrooms for the meat to make a tasty vegetarian option. Last year I posted a serious of recipes from one of my favourite Chinese cuisines to celebrate Chinese New Year including My Cantonese Pork and Crab and Sweetcorn Soup. This year I am going to post some Sichuan dishes to add to the collection.

Mapo tofu
Mapo tofu

Mapo Tofu History

The origins of the dish are a little confusing but one thing is for certain and all of the experts agree on the meaning of the name ‘ Mapo ‘. Ma stands for pockmarks and po is derived from the Chinese for old lady or grandma. So Mapo tofu is a shortening of the name Pockmarked Ma’s Bean Curd. This lady may have owned a restaurant, or been a relative of a restaurant owner, or simply being hospitable. whatever she created a stunning dish packed with flavour. Today there are many variations and recipes that are often adapted with less spice, but you should really give the authentic recipe a try. Enjoy.

Mapo Tofu Ingredients

Sliced tofu
Sliced Tofu

Tofu or bean curd is made from soy milk. In a process similar to making cheese it is first made into curds which are pressed into blocks. The finished product has a soft yielding texture and is quite bland in taste but is often used in really highly-flavoured dishes such as Mapo tofu.

Sichuan Pepper
Sichuan pepper

Sichuan pepper is not like any of its namesakes the smell and taste is unique. It has a citrus aroma, in fact, it is a member of the citrus family and creates a mild pleasant numbness in the mouth.

Doubanjiang or douban is a salty spicy paste made from fermented broad beans, soya beans and rice and red chillies. It is known as ‘ the soul of Sichuan cuisine ‘.

Fermented Black Beans
Douchi – fermented black beans

Douchi ( 豆豉 ) are semi-dried fermented and salted black soybeans used in Chinese cooking. The finished taste is both sweet and salty so the beans are used sparingly as a flavouring to dishes. Douchi are one of the oldest know products made from soybeans dating back over two thousand years.

Top Tips

Use a wooden spoon or flat spatula to gently stir the dish when cooking to avoid breaking up the tofu. As both the fermented black beans and the douban are salty check the flavour of the dish before adding any additional salt. If you want a little more Sichuan hit sprinkle the finished dish with extra freshly ground Sichuan pepper.

As you will be making this quickly in a wok it helps to have all the ingredients ready before you start cooking.
Char sui pork

My great Char sui Pork Recipe – Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year Wish

It is Chinese New Year and I am celebrating by posting some more of my favourite Chinese recipes and information about Chinese Cooking. One of my personal favourites is Cantonese food the most international of the different styles of Chinese cuisine. Cantonese food is all about letting the flavour of the key ingredients shine through with a few additional flavourings including garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and spices such as star anise and Chinese Five Spice.

Char sui pork
Char sui – Cantonese BBQ Pork

This is my oven baked version of the classic Cantonese BBQ Pork recipe or Char sui with its distinctive colouring, sticky sweet marinade, and succulent melt-in-the-mouth texture.  This recipe is made using belly pork, you can make Char sui with tenderloin for a less fatty finish but you need to reduce the cooking times. You will need to plan a little ahead for the best results and prepare the night before and the meat requires quite a long cooking process, but I guarantee you will not be disappointed with the end result. My recipe for Char sui includes a little Muscavado sugar not authentic I know but think it adds to the liquorice aniseed flavour. I like to serve Char sui simply, as the Chinese do, with any cooking juices on a bowl of perfectly fluffy plain boiled rice with maybe a few finely sliced spring onions or you can pile the sliced meat into steamed Bao buns with quick pickled mooli and carrot and fresh coriander.

Char Sui – Cantonese BBQ Pork

1 kg rindless Belly Pork

( ask your butcher to remove any bones and cartilage )

5 tablespoons of Tomato Ketchup

5 tablespoons of Hoisin Sauce

2 tablespoons Honey

2 tablespoons of Dark Soy Sauce

2 tablespoons Chinese Rice Wine Vinegar

1 heaped tablespoon Dark Brown Muscovado Sugar

1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil

1 tablespoon Sesame Oil

4 large cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

4 – 5 cm piece of fresh Ginger, peeled and finely grated

1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice

Place all the ingredients excluding the pork into a medium sized mixing bowl and thoroughly blend. Place the pork into a deep sided baking tray and pour over the marinade. Work the marinade into both sides of the pork with you finger tips then cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat your oven to 160 C / 325 F / Gas Mark 3. Place a piece of baking paper over the pork and then a double layer of aluminium foil sealing the edges. Place the tray in the oven and cook for three and a half hours, carefully removing the tray and basting the pork every hour, then resealing and placing back to continue cooking. Remove the foil and baking sheet and turn the oven up to 180 C / 350 F / Gas Mark 4, baste the pork again return to the oven and continue to cook for around another forty minutes while it caramelises around the edges.

Remove the pork from the tin and set aside on a clean tray covered in foil to rest for twenty minutes. Transfer the sauce to a small pan and spoon off any excess fat and bring to a gentle simmer. Slice the pork, it will be very tender and fall apart as you cut into it, and serve it on bowls of boiled rice with the remaining sauce poured over.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Sesame Seeds    Flour

There will be Soya and may be gluten in your Soy Sauce

Please see the Allergens Page

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Sesame Chicken Wings

Spicy Sesame Chicken Wings

Chinese New Year Wish

I love any food you eat you eat with your fingers, prawns in their shells, ribs, it is great fun and so tasty. No surprise then that I’m such a fan of chicken wings maybe with a Crispy Salt and Pepper Crust, American BBQ style Buffalo Wings with a cooling Blue Cheese Dip or Asian style hot Wings with Sesame Seeds. To celebrate the Chinese New Year today’s recipe is my version of the last dish, which I would serve with a bowl of perfectly fluffy boiled rice.

 

Sesame Chicken Wings
Spicy Sesame Chicken Wings

Spicy Sesame Chicken Wings

For the Chicken

20 trimmed Chicken Wings

( you can ask your butcher to do this,

freeze the wing tips until you are making a stock )

3 tablespoons Cornflour

1 teaspoon Paprika

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon Onion Powder

¼ teaspoon White Pepper

A splash of Vegetable Oil

For the Sauce

3 tablespoons Ketchup

2 tablespoons Light Soy Sauce

2 tablespoon Sesame Oil

2 tablespoons Honey

1 tablespoon Sriracha Hot Sauce

1 tablespoon Chinese Rice Wine Vinegar

2 cloves Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

To Garnish

2 tablespoons Sesame Seeds

3 Spring Onions, washed and finely sliced

1 sliced Red Chilli

Preheat the oven to 425 F / 220 C / Gas Mark 7. In a mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients for the chicken thoroughly then toss in the chicken wings and coat evenly. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper about a centimetre apart and drizzle with the oil. Place in the oven and bake for fifteen minutes then carefully turn over with a pair of tongues. Return to the oven for another fifteen to twenty minutes until chicken is fully cooked.

In a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pot, add all ingredients for the sesame sauce except sesame seeds. Gently bring the sauce to a boil, stirring regularly and simmer the sauce over a low heat for ten minutes. If you want the sauce spicier, add more of the hot sauce to your taste. When the chicken wings out from the oven, carefully tip onto kitchen paper to drain off any excess fat then place into a bowl and add the sauce. Toss chicken wings to coat evenly with the sauce then place into a serving dish, sprinkle with the sesame seeds, spring onions and chilli slices. Enjoy.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Sesame Seeds  Flour

There will be Soya  and may be gluten in your Soy Sauce

Please see the Allergens Page

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Xin nian kuai le – Happy Chinese New Year – Slow braised Lamb with Ginger and Spring Onions

Chinese New Year Wish

There are up to two weeks of celebrations for the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. This year is the year of the Dog. In China and the Chinese diaspora there are visits to family, fireworks, and feasts and so I thought appropriate over the next ten days to post some more of my favourite Chinese dishes. I am also building up a database of some of the ingredients and base recipes which you can find on here. If you want to know more about one of my favourite styles of Chinese cuisine you can read my post on Cantonese food.

Celebrate Chinese New Year with the following Recipes;-

Crab and Sweetcorn Soup

Spicy Sesame Chicken Wings

Shanghai-style Red Braised Pork Belly

Cantonese Pork

King Prawn Chow Mein

Beef in Black Bean Sauce

General Tso’s Chicken

Char sui – Cantonese BBQ Pork

Perfectly fluffy Boiled Rice

Egg Fried Rice

In China lamb or mutton is eaten mostly in the north and north west and is especially favoured by the Muslim and Mongol populations but it is available everywhere. The most popular street food in China are Xinjiang lamb skewers with fiery and fragrant with chilli and Szechuan peppercorns, which you can find in every major city throughout China. Chinese recipes mostly call for mutton or substitute goat rather than lamb mainly because traditionally lamb was scarce, and the cooking times would be longer.  This is rather a generous recipe best eaten with friends, serve with some perfectly fluffy boiled rice. Now may I wish you all prosperity for this Year of the Dog and Enjoy – Gong xi fa cai

Slow cooked Lamb and Ginger
Braised Lamb and Ginger

 

Slow Braised Lamb with Ginger and Spring Onions

1.5 kg to 2 kg boned Shoulder of Lamb

10 Banana Shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

2 large bunches of Spring Onions, washed, trimmed and cut in 3 centimetre pieces

500 gr Sliced Button Mushrooms

1.5 ltr good quality Lamb or Veal Stock

100 gr Rock Sugar ( you can substitute Demerara )

1 large 6 centimetre piece of Ginger, peeled and very finely sliced

6 cloves Garlic, peeled and finely crushed

6 tablespoons Dark Soy sauce

4 tablespoons Rice Wine or Dry Sherry

4 tablespoons Vegetable Oil

2 tablespoons Sesame Paste

1 tablespoon Tomato Puree

6 Star Anise pods

4 Cloves

2 large pieces of Cassia Bark

Cut the lamb shoulder into large five centimetre dice. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and blanch the lamb by plunging it into the boiling water for five minutes. Strain out the meat and discard the water. Heat a wok or a large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Add the oil, and when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the pieces of lamb and stir-fry them until they are brown.

Add the shallots, spring onions, mushrooms and ginger to the wok and cook for five more minutes before placing into a large casserole or heavy-bottomed pan and stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring up to the boil and carefully skim off any fat from the surface, then turn the heat down as low as possible. Cover with a lid and gently simmer for around one and a half hours or until the lamb is cooked and tender, skimming occasionally to remove any more fat. When cooked remove the star anise, cloves and cassia bark and serve in bowls with steamed rice.

Wine and Beer

What to Drink? Matching wine with Chinese food used to be considered impossible but more modern sommeliers are making innovative pairings try your lamb with a fruity, Chilean Pinot Noir or off-dry Rosé and why not try a refreshing Continental wheat beer with citrus and coriander seeds as your beer choice.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Sesame Seeds    Flour

There may be gluten in your Soy Sauce

Please see the Allergens Page

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