Gong Bao Ji Ding (Kung Pao Chicken with Peanuts)

A glorious medley of chicken, golden peanuts, and bright red chillies with a sweet-sour sauce from Fuchsia Dunlop
By Fuchsia Dunlop
Gong Bao Ji Ding (Kung Pao Chicken with Peanuts)
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 2
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Effort: easy


  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 3 garlic
  • 3 piece ginger
  • 5 spring onions, white parts only
  • 2 peanut oil
  • dried Sichuanese chillies, (at least 10)
  • 1 whole Sichuan pepper
  • 75 g roasted peanuts

For the marinade

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp medium dry sherry
  • 1 1/2 tsp potato flour
  • 1 tbsp water

For the sauce

  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp potato flour
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 3 tsp Chinkiang or black Chinese vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp chicken stock or water

Tips and Suggestions

this dish, also known as Kung Pao chicken, has the curious distinction of having been labelled as politically incorrect during the Cultural Revolution. It is named after a late Qing Dynasty (late 19th century) governor of Sichuan, Ding Baozhen, who is said to have particularly enjoyed eating it -- Gong Bao was his official title. No one can quite agree on the details of its origins: Some say it was a dish Ding Baozhen brought with him from his home province of Guizhou; others that he ate it in a modest restaurant when he went out in humble dress to observe the real lives of his subjects; still others, rather implausibly, that his chef invented the finely chopped chicken dish because Ding Baozhen had bad teeth. Whatever the truth of its origins, its association with an imperial bureaucrat was enough to provoke the wrath of the Cultural Revolution radicals, and it was renamed "fast-fried chicken cubes" (gong bao ji ding) or "chicken cubes with seared chiles" (hu la ji ding) until its political rehabilitation in the 1980s.

From Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking


1. Cut the chicken as evenly as possible into 1cm strips and then cut these into small cubes. Place in a small bowl and mix in the marinade ingredients.

2. Peel and thinly slice the garlic and ginger, and chop the scallions into chunks as long as their diameter (to match the chicken cubes). Snip the chillies in half or into 4cm. Wearing rubber gloves, discard as many seeds as possible.

3. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl -- if you dip your finger in, you can taste the sweet-sour base of the gong bao flavour.

4. Season the wok, then add 2 tablespoons of oil and heat over a high flame. When the oil is hot but not yet smoking, add the chillies and Sichuan pepper and stir-fry briefly until they are crisp and the oil is spicy and fragrant. Take care not to burn the spices (you can remove the wok from the heat if necessary to prevent overheating).

5. Quickly add the chicken and fry over a high flame, stirring constantly. As soon as the chicken cubes have separated, add the ginger, garlic, and scallions and continue to stir-fry for a few minutes until they are fragrant and the meat is cooked through (test one of the larger pieces to make sure).

6. Give the sauce a stir and add it to the wok, continuing to stir and toss. As soon as the sauce has become thick and shiny, add the peanuts, stir them in, and serve.

Variations: the same dish can be made with cubes of pork, shrimp, or prawns. Cashew nuts can be used instead of peanuts for a grander version of this dish, although peanuts are more traditional.

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