I’ve mentioned in previous posts that chicken thigh can stand in for pork. It’s hearty, and rich. Chicken thighs’ deep flavor truly lends itself to preparations like the classic Kung Pao – even though that dish is often made with diced chicken breast.
This recipe is relatively quick and is an excellent component to a Chinese-style, home-cooked meal.
Some recipes include peas. I really don’t like peas – a reaction to too many little piles of over-microwaved squishy army green spheres rolling around childhood plates. But as it’s spring, and asparagus is starting to appear in the markets, I’ve have included fresh asparagus, which gives the dish a little bit of that spring flavor, and a pleasant vegetal crunch. If you can’t find asparagus in your market, could substitute frozen asparagus, or use the dreaded peas. If that’s your thing.
This recipe calls also for Sichuan peppercorns, also called flower pepper, which add a pleasant, numbing heat and floral flavor to the dish and really brings the flavor up a notch. It can be found online or at many specialist stores but can also be omitted.
Kung Pao Chicken with Spring AsparagusCourse: MainCuisine: ChineseDifficulty: Medium
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
8-10 pieces of asparagus
3 tbsp soy sauce, divided
1 tsp black vinegar (substitute balsamic)
1 tsp chili garlic paste
¼ cup unsalted peanuts
½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns (opt)
2 ribs celery
2 green onions
1 1-inch piece of ginger
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp neutral oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp red chili flake
- Cut the chicken into ½-inch or smaller pieces.
- Place 1 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tsp cornstarch in a bowl, and stir to combine.
- Add the chicken to the soy/cornstarch mixture and stir to coat/combine. Marinate in the refrigerator while preparing other ingredients.
- Peel, trim, and mince the ginger.
- Peel and mince the garlic.
- Trim the roots and dry the ends of the green onions. Slice diagonally into ⅛-inch slices. Store in cold water until ready to use.
- Trim and thinly slice the celery. Store in cold water until ready to use.
- Clean, trim, and dice the carrot into ¼-inch cubes.
- Trim the asparagus tips for garnish, and slice the asparagus stalks into ¼-inch slices. Optionally, quickly blanch the asparagus and shock it in ice water.
- Mix 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp chili paste, 1 tbsp black vinegar, and 1 tsp sesame oil.
- Add neutral oil to a pan over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, half of the green onions, Sichuan peppercorn (opt), chili flake, and peanuts to the pan.
- Cook until the mixture becomes fragrant.
- Add the chicken, and turn up the heat. Stir constantly to ensure even cooking.
- Add carrots, celery, and asparagus, cook just until asparagus is cooked and warmed through.
- Serve with freshly steamed white rice.