Kung Pao chicken is a classic Szechuan dish, but I had a two pound piece of pork tenderloin in the freezer, that I wanted to use up, so I switched things up a bit. The other elements were still there including the hot chili and crunchy peanuts, even if I forgot to add the latter to the dish, until I was almost finished devouring my first bowl.
Kung Pao Pork – serves 2-3
1 lbs pork tenderloin, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tbsp Kikkoman soy sauce
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tbsp light soy sauce, or Kikkoman
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1/2 tbsp Shaoxing wine or cooking sherry
1/2 tbsp black vinegar or rice wine or apple cider vinegar
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tbsp granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp water
From left to right: Shaoxing cooking wine, black/Chinkiang vinegar, Kikkoman soy sauce and dark soy sauce
Remaining Kung Pao Ingredients
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 small white onion, finely diced
1/2 tbsp minced or grated ginger
1/2 tbsp minced or grated garlic
1-5 whole dried red chilis, with or without seeds depending on preference, broken into 1/2″ pieces*
1/2 tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns
1 medium zucchini, diced (optional)
1 small red bell pepper, diced
2-4 tbsp dry roasted peanuts, unsalted
From top left, clockwise: dried chili, ground Szechuan peppercorns, onions/ginger/garlic, marinated pork cubes, and lo mein noodles (no egg, 3 minute cooking time)
* I used one chili, with seeds, and it was very bland.
1-2 stalks of green onions, thinly cut on the diagonal, for garnish
Marinate the pork: In a medium bowl, combine the pork, soy sauce, and cornstarch. Mix well and let the pork marinate, for 1 hour, in the fridge.
Making the Kung Pao sauce: In a small bowl, combine the light and dark soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, black vinegar, cornstarch, sugar, sesame oil, and water. Stir to mix the ingredients. Set aside.
Cooking the pork: Heat up one tbsp of cooking oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add the marinated pork cubes and flash fry for 3-4 minutes or until the outside is lightly browned. With a perforated spoon transfer the pork cubes to a shallow bowl lined with paper towels to absorb the majority of oil. Retain the remaining oil in the wok as you’ll need it to fry the rest of the ingredients.
Cooking the other ingredients: Measure the oil remaining in the wok and if needed, add more oil to equal 1 tbsp. Place the wok back over medium-high heat and add the diced onion, bell peppers, zucchini (if using), ginger and garlic. (NOTE: I don’t have a kitchen fan so I didn’t flash fry the chili pieces and the peppercorns by themselves over high heat before adding the onions etc. Instead, I fried them briefly in the next step.) Stir fry for about 5 minutes. The diced onions should be translucent and both they and the zucchini cubes should have browned a bit.
Push the vegetables to one side and add the chili pieces and ground Szechuan peppercorns. Fry for a minute or two just to toast the chili and peppercorns. Add the fried pork and continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes.
Whisk together the sauce ingredients to redistribute the cornstarch, which will have settled to the bottom, and pour over the meat and vegetables. Stir well to distribute the ingredients and continue to cook until the sauce thickens and starts to bubble a bit.
Transfer to a serving plate and serve with the sliced green onions sprinkled over the top as a garnish.
If desired, pour the kung pao over a bed of plain steamed rice or cooked noodles.
NOTE: I decided to use lo mein noodles as my starch. For serving, I tossed the noodles with the pork. It’s a fairly dry preparation.