Kung pao chicken

A heavenly kick of chilli adds real punch to this classic Chinese dish. Follow it up with a fresh, palate-cleansing dessert. If you can’t find the variety of chillies known as “heaven facing” at your local Asian grocer, use dried small red ones instead. This dish is hot and numbing – and represents everything that is good about Sichuan food.


  • 400g chicken thigh, cut into 2cm chunks
  • 2 tbsp plain flour, for dusting
  • ½ cup peanut oil
  • 10 dried long red chillies
  • 10 heaven-facing chillies
  • 1.5cm piece ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5 spring onions, cut into 5cm lengths (white and green parts separated)
  • 1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • ½ cup toasted peanuts
  • 1½ tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • ¼ cup chicken stock
  • 1½ tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp chilli oil (optional)
  • Steamed rice, to serve


Dust the chicken pieces with the flour. Heat 100ml oil in a wok over a medium-high heat (or it tends to sweat and boil rather than fry). Shallow-fry the chicken until golden and cooked through, about 4 minutes. Drain chicken on paper towel. Discard oil and wipe out the wok.

Place wok back on a medium-low heat and add remaining oil. Gently fry all the chillies until fragrant, then remove from wok and set aside. Add ginger and garlic to wok and stir-fry until fragrant. Add white sections of spring onions, Sichuan peppercorns, half the peanuts, all the reserved chicken and chillies and continue to stir-fry for a minute. Deglaze with Shaoxing, then add sugar, stock and soy, simmer for a minute or two until a sauce forms.

Add spring onion greens and stir to coat everything well with the sauce. Serve garnished with remaining peanuts, chilli oil and steamed rice.

NOTES: Want something to drink?
Try the Framingham Classic Riesling 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand.

Bring out the riesling: not the traditional South Australian style, but one with more residual sugar to calm the heat. This off-dry wine has rich fruit, juicy acidity and a seductive, fragrant bouquet. Mandarin, apple and honeysuckle provide a perfect foil for this chicken dish's heat and spice.

First published in the Good Weekend.

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