You can find kung pao chicken on pretty much every Chinese takeout menu. It’s a staple for anyone who orders late-night Chinese food, and it is one of those Americanized Chinese dishes that everyone I know grew up with—except me. Chef and Christopher were trading stories about their favorite takeout dishes and raving about the addictiveness of a super-spicy, garlicky, well-made kung pao dish. I was skeptical that it could really be that tasty, but then Chef came up with a brilliant idea to make me a vegan version with chickpeas. I was sold. It’s crunchy and earthy, and I love it over a bowl of hot fluffy rice.
One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and shaken dry
2 teaspoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as canola
8 dried red Thai chili peppers
3 scallions, white and green parts cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small red onion, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 red pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
1 green pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
1 large celery stalk, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts or cashews
One 5-ounce can whole water chestnuts, drained and quartered
1 recipe Kung Pao Sauce (recipe follows)
In a small bowl, toss the chickpeas with the cornstarch. In a wok or a large, heavy, flat-bottomed skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil over high heat until it shimmers, about 1 minute. Add the cornstarch-coated chickpeas and stir until the chickpeas start to color, 4 to 6 minutes. Some of the cornstarch may stick to the pan, but it will melt off when the rest of the ingredients are added. Remove the chickpeas from the wok.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the wok and heat over high heat until it shimmers, about 1 minute. Add the chilies and stir until they start to blacken, about 1 minute. Add the scallions, onion, bell peppers, celery, peanuts, and water chestnuts and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables start to soften but are still somewhat crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Return the chickpeas to the wok, add the Kung Pao Sauce, stir to combine, and bring to a boil, 2 to 3 minutes. Place in a large serving bowl.
Kung Pao Sauce
Makes about 3/4 cup
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sambal oelek
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 medium cloves)
1 tablespoon peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger (about 1-inch knob)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients with 2 tablespoons water. The Kung Pao Sauce can be made up to 1 week in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Myers + Chang At Home. Copyright © 2017 by Joanne Chang and Karen Akunowicz . Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
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