It’s been a staple in my menu for 30 years, discovered in 1972’s The Chinese Cookbook by Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee. It’s my doorway into China.

Originally from Mississippi, Claiborne was classically trained in French cuisine with many articles and books under his belt. Then, as a possible news assignment in 1970, he met Virginia Lee, who was suddenly teaching him the cooking and love of Chinese food from her simply kitchen in New York’s Chinatown, and later in his East Hampton locale.

IMG_6050This recipe is a family favorite, simplified in several ways, but flavorful nonetheless. I’ve never included MSG and always added broccoli, a popular Chinese veggie with great health and beautiful capture of the sauce. I’ve also dropped sugar, though there is a tiny amount in hoisin sauce. I also see no reason to add corn starch to thicken the sauce.  And I avoid peanut oil. Olive or coconut oil is a wonderful substitute.

Technically, peanuts are legumes, not nuts. They are a key flavor for something called Kung Pao, but if they don’t work for you, try a real nut like cashews.

I’ve recently invented a separate variation that replaces broccoli with napa cabbage, and brown rice with quinoa. Try them both!

This MIGHT send you to an Asian market for all the ingredients, depending on where you live.

Kung Pao Chicken Today

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 ½ pounds chicken breast
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbs. bean sauce
  • 1 tbs. hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbs. chili paste or chili paste with garlic
  • 1 tbs. dried sherry or shao hsing wine
  • 1 tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed but left whole
  • 3 heads broccoli, florets only, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ cup dry roasted peanuts
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • Brown rice


Cook brown rice according to directions, starting first.

Wash and dry and cut the chicken breast into pieces about ½ inches cubed. Add them to a bowl to combine them with the egg white.

Combine the black bean sauce, hoisin sauce, chili paste, shao hsing wine and red wine vinegar in a small bowl.

Steam the broccoli over boiling water for 4-5 minutes until tender-crisp. Cool under drained water. Set aside.

Heat some oil in a wok until hot. Quickly brown the peanuts, then remove from heat to a paper towel. Add half the chicken and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until done. Remove and then cook the remaining chicken and garlic, adding more coconut oil first if needed. Remove the chicken and garlic.

Remove any remaining oil in the wok and add the sauce for 30 seconds, then return the chicken and the broccoli until all is well coated. Once served in individual bowls with some brown rice, sprinkle with peanuts.

Chopsticks conclude the idea.


IMG_6055You may try other vegetables for the broccoli. One of my most successful experiments has been napa cabbage, which does not need to be cooked ahead but thrown into the wok when the chicken is nearly done.

As an even more radical idea I have substituted the rice with quinoa. Someday I’ll do a piece on quinoa for eaters who avoid all other grains.