I Made GongBaoJiDing!

Tuesday, 31 July 2007 -- 7:02 am

I bought a bag of Sichuan peppercorns on a trip back to the US a few months ago, and last night I put them to the test.  We’ve been craving real GongBao JiDing since we left China, so it was time to give it a try.  I found a recipe online that looked promising and didn’t have too many hard-to-find ingredients, and I invited Puneet over to help us taste test.

After an hour of chopping and mixing (but mostly chopping), we broke out the wok and fried it up.  It cooked so fast that I actually overcooked some parts of it (namely the chilies and the green onions), and now I understand how restaurants in Beijing can get the dishes out to the table so quickly!  As long as all the bits and pieces are chopped and ready to go, it’s actually really fast and simple to get the dish ready.  Despite our fantastic rice cooker, we were stuck waiting around for our mifan!  Just adding to the authenticity, I guess!  (For the non-Beijing-ren, in China rice is served at the end of the meal and getting it earlier often means reminding the waitress over and over!)

Overall, I think the recipe was a fantastic success, and with one or two more rounds of practice (I can’t wait!), we’ll be ready to unveil the wonders of spicy, tingly 麻-ful GongBao to our local friends and colleagues!

GongBaoJiDing 宫保鸡丁

quoted and updated slightly from http://loykee.blogspot.com

Ingredients (”+” means “and a bit more”)

260 g (2 small) skinless chicken breasts
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
equal amount of fresh ginger, also thinly sliced
5 green onions, white parts only (the thicker the better)
2 Tbsp olive oil
small handful (about 15 small) dried red chilies
1 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorn
½ cup whole roasted unsalted peanuts (I could only find salted, so I just rinsed them first)

½ tsp salt
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp wine (the original called for dry sherry or rice wine, but the Vinmonopolet was closed, so I had to use medium-dry white table wine)
2+ tsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp water

3 tsp sugar
1+ tsp cornstarch
2 tsp soy sauce
3 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chicken stock (water and a pinch of chicken bouillon)

1. Cut the chicken into ½-inch to ¾-inch cubes.  Place in a small bowl, and mix in the marinade ingredients.  Let sit…

2. Slice the garlic and ginger.  Chop the green onions into chunks as long as their diameter.  Snip the chilies and discard the seeds.  (If you want the dish to be more -spicy, keep a few pinches of the seeds as well.)  Set aside.

3. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.  Set aside.

4. Heat the olive oil over high heat in a non-stick wok.  Leave one small slice of garlic for testing the temperature -when it begins to sizzle, it’s time. Add the chillies and Sichuan pepper and stir-fry briefly until they are crisp and the oil is spicy and fragrant (opening the windows is advised). Take care not to burn the spices.

5. Add the ginger and garlic. Stir.

6. Add the chicken and fry over high heat, stirring constantly.  As soon as the chicken cubes are nearly cooked, add the green onions continue to stir-fry for just a few minutes.

7. 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.

Aside from the changes I made inline above, there are a few more that I plan to make next time.  My chilies didn’t become crisp in all that oil.  While I waited for them to turn crisp, they burned and got all soggy.  This is my new rule of thumb for making this.  There’s almost no cooking time.  Similar to the chilies, by the time I got around to adding the sauce, my green onions were almost gone.  Since they’re my favorite part of the original dish, next time, I’m looking for the biggest, fattest ones I can find, and I’m going to be careful to only cook them very briefly, so they don’t cook down all the way!

There are also two big ingredients changes that I’ll be making next time.  I’m doubling or tripling the amount of Sichuan peppercorn, because we like our GongBao tongue-numbingly ma 麻!  And we’ll probably double the recipe for the sauce, so that there’s more “gravy” left over to eat with the rice.

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