Updated: Feb 6, 2020
by Fuchsia Dunlop from The Food of Sichuan (Bloomsbury)
Food Photography & Styling, Caroline Marson
Gong Bao chicken is a glorious medley of succulent chicken, golden peanuts & dark red chillies. The ‘lychee-flavoured’ sauce is pepped up with a scorched-chilli spiciness & a trace of Sichuan pepper that will make your lips tingle pleasantly. Although the classic dish is made with peanuts, cashew nuts are even more delicious.
300g boneless chicken breast such as Sutton Hoo Slow Grown Chicken
5 spring onions, white parts only
A good handful of dried chillies (at least 12)
4 tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns
3 garlic cloves, peeled & sliced
An equivalent amount of ginger, peeled & sliced
75g roasted or fried peanuts (or cashews)
For the marinade
½ tsp salt
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp Shaoxing wine
1½ tbsp potato starch
For the sauce
2 tbsp caster sugar
¾ tsp potato starch
¾ tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp Chinkiang vinegar
1½ tbsp chicken stock or water
1 tsp sesame oil
Cut the chicken breasts as evenly as possible into 1.5cm cubes.
Place in a bowl, add the marinade ingredients & 1½ tbsp cold water & mix well. Cut the spring onion whites into small chunks to match the chicken cubes. Snip the chillies in half or into 2cm sections & shake out the seeds as far as possible.
Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl – if you dip your finger in, you should be able to taste the light sweet-and-sour or ‘lychee’ base flavour of the dish.
Pour the cooking oil into a seasoned wok over a high flame. Quickly add the chillies & Sichuan pepper & stir-fry briefly until the chillies are fragrant & darkening but not burnt. Tip in the chicken & stir to separate. As soon as the pieces have separated, add the garlic, ginger & spring onion whites & stir-fry until they smell delicious & the chicken is just cooked (you may test a piece by cutting it in half to make sure).
Give the sauce a stir & pour into the centre of the wok. Wait for a second or two, then stir as the sauce thickens & coats the chicken pieces. Mix in the peanuts (or cashews) & serve.