This is a great example of how making tender chicken can be really easy… and how restaurants fool you into thinking that they’re making an effort.
Kung pao chicken (to me) is all about tender chicken and crunchy other stuff. All that really requires is making tender chicken. It’s easier than you think.
Cut the chicken into little chunks with a knife or kitchen shears. Season with salt and pepper.
Now the important part: I add about 1.5 teaspoons of corn starch per pound of chicken, and just enough water so that the corn starch turns into paste and coats the chicken. If there’s too much water, just dump it out. If there’s too much corn starch… add more water.
I like to massage it all together with my fingers so that I know that the chicken is evenly coated. If you’re a pansy and afraid of salmonella, you can use a utensil, but you have to make sure that everything is mixed really well.
It’s hard to overcook chicken if you use corn starch. The paste encases the moisture.
You can also do the following 2 things to keep your chicken even better:
1. Only put the chicken in after your oil is nice and hot, so you should hear a sizzle right away especially since the chicken is a little moist. Because of that, you probably want to make sure your cornstarch and water mixture isn’t too watery or inconsistently mixed so you don’t burn yourself. This makes the chicken bouncy.
2. Keep the lid on while cooking. It makes things really noisy as the water drops into the burning oil, and it’s probably not the best thing for your pot, but then your chicken cooks more evenly, and you don’t have to move the pieces around all the time.
While you’re saving time not stirring the chicken, you can cut up the celery and gather all the crunchy stuff like cashews, snap peas, and diced carrots. We just used celery and cashews.
Once your chicken is nice and white and not translucent, you can test to make sure that they’re cooked and not pink in the center. I just stab a piece with a chopstick and note the color of the liquid coming out. If there’s no liquid then you fell asleep at the wheel and your chicken is slightly overcooked, but that’s okay because the cornstarch should have saved you. The chicken should be a little bouncy.
Now you can throw in whatever sauces you want and all the crunchy stuff!
Mix to your tastes until the veggies perfectly cooked. You can just time this by tasting the vegetables occasionally after they change color.
Ours was nice and spicy. Because of the corn starch, the sauce also sticks to everything.
We made enough to feed a family of 8. No wonder I’m having trouble fitting into my pants.