Hubby and I never tire of trying to recreate our favorite restaurant-style Asian dishes at home. One Chinese favorite of mine is kung pao chicken.
I can remember the first time I tried kung pao as a little girl, with my parents, at the Blue Sky Chinese restaurant in Costa Mesa, California (I picked this place for every birthday dinner). I didn’t pay attention the warnings and proceeded to eat a couple of the super spicy hot red peppers. Our waiter kindly stood next to our table, pouring glass after glass of ice water for me as I chugged down cold water to help stop the burning inside my mouth. Despite feeling like I might die, that incident didn’t sway my fondness for this dish.
Fortunately for me, my husband shares my love for spicy Asian cuisine — and he’s also willing to experiment with slimming recipes down to make them better fit my Weight Watchers lifestyle. Jeff lightened the original dish up by reducing the amount of oil called for in the original recipe, swapping Splenda for sugar, and using fat-free chicken broth.
This dish pairs perfectly with stir-fried vegetables, served over rice. Lightening it up did not impact the flavor at all. Increase or decrease the amount of dried red chili peppers to suit your spice threshold, and simply pick them off your plate if you want the flavor without the fire.
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thigh or breast, cut into 3∕4-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2½ teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce (I like low sodium)
- 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon mirin rice wine
- 2 teaspoons Splenda sweetener
- 3∕4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons fat-free chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons peanut or vegetable oil
- 4 to 8 dried red chili peppers, snipped on one end
- 1∕2 teaspoon roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
- 3∕4 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
- 1∕2 cup minced scallions
- In a medium bowl combine the chicken, ginger, garlic, cornstarch, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the rice wine, 1 teaspoon of the sweetern, 1∕2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1 teaspoon cold water. Stir to combine. In a small bowl combine the broth, vinegar, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, and the remaining 1 tablespoon rice wine.
- Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 teaspoon of the peanut oil, add the chilies and ground Sichuan peppercorns, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 15 seconds or until the chilies just begin to smoke. Push the chili mixture to the sides of the wok, carefully add the chicken, and spread it evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the chicken begin to sear. Then stir-fry 1 minute or until the chicken is lightly browned but not cooked through.
- Swirl the remaining 1 teaspoon peanut oil into the wok. Add the bell peppers and stir-fry 1 minute or until the peppers begin to soften. Swirl the broth mixture into the wok and stir-fry 1 minute or until the chicken is just cooked through. Add the peanuts and scallions, sprinkle on the remaining 1 teaspoon sweetener and 1∕4 teaspoon salt, and stir-fry 30 seconds or until the scallions are bright green.