DIY Takeout: How to Make Kung Pao Chicken at Home

DIY Takeout: How to Make Kung Pao Chicken at Home
Nick Evans

There are many popular Chinese stir-fry style dishes, but Kung Pao chicken may just be the most popular. Almost every Chinese place has its own version of the dish, but most are pretty similar. Recently, I went to  Imperial Chinese Restaurant to try the Kung Pao lunch special, which comes with soup and an egg roll plus a huge amount of chicken and stir-fried vegetables.

It's also $15, which is a bit pricey for a takeout lunch special. But we can get close to the same results at home while saving a little money (even if you miss out on those Imperial egg rolls). And even if you make the sauce and marinade yourself (which I recommend), it's an easy dish to master.

The only two ingredients that you may not be able to find at a standard grocery store are the bamboo shoots and the Sichuan (or Szechuan) peppercorns. Both are technically optional, but they do add nice flavor and texture. You can find them both at almost any Asian grocery store, like Pacific Ocean Marketplace (2200 West Alameda Avenue in Denver, 12203 East Mississippi Avenue in Aurora, and 6600 West 120th Avenue in Broomfield).

Other than that, this dish is as easy as tossing stuff in a blazing hot wok or skillet for a few minutes before serving it up. Keep reading for the recipe below.

Homemade Kung Pao Chicken
Serves 4
Total Time: 45 minutes

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken, cubed
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
Pinch of salt
Pinch of sugar

Kung Pao Sauce:
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chicken stock
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Stir Fry Ingredients:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3-4 dried red chiles
1 large leek, sliced
1 red pepper, chopped
2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup bamboo shoots
1 cup roasted peanuts
Pinch Szechuan peppercorns, crushed (optional)
Scallions for garnish

For chicken:
Combine marinade ingredients together and stir well. Add cubed chicken and let marinate for at least thirty minutes or overnight in the fridge.

For sauce:
Whisk sauce ingredients together until smooth. Set aside until needed.

To make Kung Pao chicken:
1. Place a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add vegetable oil, and when shimmering hot, add chicken with any leftover marinade and cook, stirring regularly, until chicken is cooked, maybe 3-4 minutes.

2. Add dried chiles, leek and pepper, then stir, cooking for another minute or two.

3. Add fresh ginger and garlic and cook for another minute, stirring regularly to prevent burning.

4. Finally, add bamboo shoots (roughly chopped), roasted peanuts, and a pinch of Sichuan peppercorn (optional), along with all the sauce. Stir together well to combine.

Serve kung pao chicken immediately over rice, garnished with fresh scallions.

Have an idea for a dish to re-create for DIY Takeout? Leave a comment or e-mail [email protected]

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.