The current issue of Saveur is #135, and this recipe is from issue #60, so it’s been filed away for a few years. I’m so glad I recently unearthed it though, because it’s from a great story about the food at the exclusive China Club in Beijing. I cut out a few of the recipes from that story, and I have the page with deep fried prawns with garlic chile sauce waiting to be tried next. This Sichuan classic shown here today is a quick stir fry of chicken, dried chiles, and peanuts or kung pao chicken as we usually see it listed here, and this is always my choice on a take-out menu. Slowly but surely, I’m overcoming my fear of the wok and more precisely of stir frying. I loved the simplicity of making this since the most complicated part of the process was opening all those bottles of soy sauces, oil, vinegar, and shaoxing. This really was faster than waiting for take-out.
You start with boneless chicken breasts and cube the meat to be mixed with cornstarch and soy sauce. That was left to marinate while everything else was prepped. Meanwhile, I steamed some rice to serve on the side. A sauce was made by stirring together soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, chicken stock, Chinese black vinegar or the mix of brown rice vinegar and balsamic I used, sesame oil, and dark soy sauce. I didn’t make up the substitution of balsamic for Chinese black vinegar; that’s suggested in the recipe. Also, a garlic clove was peeled and sliced, scallions were sliced, and ginger was peeled and minced. Then, if you have your dried chiles stemmed and chopped in half crosswise, you’re ready to stir fry. Oil was heated to the smoke point in a wok, and the dried chiles were added. They were quickly followed by the chicken, garlic, scallions, and ginger. After a few minutes, the soy sauce mixture was added and allowed to thicken. The peanuts were added, and the dish was ready.
The dried chiles gave the dish a nice undercurrent of heat without making it too, too spicy, and I always like the mix of nuts and chicken in a stir fry. I mentioned this was faster than take-out, but it’s also nice to be able choose your ingredients and know all about each item that’s added to the dish. Kurt gave this a definite thumbs-up with his only request that it be made even spicier next time. I can do that, and there will be many next times of this for sure.