Some days we just want good Chinese food like you would get for takeout. Nothing fancy or esoteric, just some of our favorite Chinese restaurant dishes, such as kung pao chicken, hot and sour soup, egg drop soup, Mongolian beef, sesame chicken, char siu pork, and dan dan noodles. If you love Chinese takeout, then The Chinese Takeout Cookbook by Diana Kuan is worth a look.
I preordered the book last fall and received it in December, and everything I’ve made from it tastes as good or better than most of the Chinese takeout I’ve ever eaten. If you have an international grocery nearby, you’ll be all set, and you may be able to find most of the ingredients in the international foods aisle in your regular grocery store. Chapter 1 is all about Chinese pantry items, the stuff you want to keep on hand, including the various sauces, condiments, and spices, such as chili bean sauce, Chinese rice wine, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, and Sichuan peppercorns. If you aren’t familiar with Chinese ingredients, this is a good place to start.
Personally, I love this book. I’ve collected a number of Chinese cookbooks over the years, and I would say this one is probably the most useful for the average home cook. Not fancy, and definitely delicious.
Gluten-free condiments that were once difficult to find are now on grocery shelves. I have modified the ingredients to include gluten-free versions. The only ingredient that wouldn’t work is the black vinegar, which is made with malt. Balsamic or red wine vinegar would be an acceptable substitute.
Kung pao chicken can be as hot as you like or can stand, just adjust the number of chilies to your heat preference. I found the black vinegar at our local international grocery store.
Kung Pao Chicken
- 2 medium bowls
- 12-inch wok
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (cut into 1-inch cubes)
- 1 tablespoon gluten-free low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons gluten-free Chinese rice wine
- 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar (or gluten free alternative (red wine vinegar))
- 1 teaspoon gluten-free low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon gluten-free hoisin sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 8 small dried chilies
- 3 scallions (white and green parts separated, thinly sliced)
- 2 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
- In a medium bowl, stir together the soy sauce, rice wine, and cornstarch. Add the chicken cubes and stir until coated. Rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.
- In the other medium bowl, stir together the black vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, sugar, cornstarch, and Sichuan pepper. Make sure the sugar and cornstarch dissolve completely.
- Heat the wok over high heat until the peanut oil swirls easily around in it. Add the chilies and stir-fry about 30 seconds, until they begin to blacken. Remove the chilies and stir-fry the chicken until no longer pink, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the scallion whites, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Pour in the sauce and stir until everything is coated. Stir in the peanuts and the chilies for another 2 minutes. Serve with scallion greens for garnish.