Gong bao chicken (宫保鸡丁)

Gong bao chicken (宫保鸡丁) is another Chinese staple, supposedly named after a governor of Sichuan whose title was “defender of the palace,” or gong bao (宫保). I had this at a few places in China. In one hole in the wall restaurant, the onions actually outnumbered the chicken. Other variations included the presence or absence of Sichuan peppers, fresh red bell peppers, or other vegetables. However, some things were fairly standard, including a hot sweet sauce flavored with vinegar and chiles. Whatever items you include, make sure that everything is cut to the same size as the peanuts.

Gong bao chicken

INGREDIENTS and PREP:

  1. 2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into tiny cubes the size of whole peanuts, combined in a bowl with 1 Tbsp light soy sauce, 1 Tbsp Shaoxing rice wine, 1 Tbsp chicken stock, and 1 tsp corn starch
  2. 1/2″ ginger and 4 cloves garlic, minced
  3. White parts of 10-15 scallions and 1 red bell pepper, cut in tiny cubes to match the size of peanuts
  4. 5-10 dried red chili peppers, broken in half, seeds discarded
  5. 1 Tbsp light soy sauce, 1 Tbsp dark soy sauce, 1 Tbsp Zhenjiang black vinegar, 1 Tbsp sugar, 1 Tbsp chicken stock, 1 tsp corn starch
  6. 1 cup whole unsalted peanuts

DIRECTIONS:

  • Combine the chicken with the marinade (#1) and let it chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
  • Heat your wok until barely smoking, then add 2 Tbsp peanut oil and swirl it around. Add the chicken cubes and spread them into a thin layer. Let the chicken cook for a minute or two, until it loosens from the wok, then add #2 (the garlic and ginger) and stir-fry with the chicken for about 30 seconds.
  • Add #3 (scallions and fresh bell pepper), stir-fry for another 30 seconds until everything is heated through.
  • Add the dried red peppers (#4) and stir-fry for another 30 seconds.
  • Stir the sauce together (#5) and pour it into the wok, and and stir everything together to incorporate. The sauce will thicken slightly. Add the peanuts, stir well, and serve.

Variations: Major variations, all of which I saw in China, include the following: omit the fresh red peppers, double or triple the scallions, add 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns to #4, make a more liquid sauce by adding 1/2 cup chicken stock to #5.

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