Chicken isn't my favourite of all the meats, but it is perfect for this dish. Traditionally, chicken breast is used but I prefer the darker thigh meat. Though it needs a touch more cooking, the marinating technique ensures it is still tender and juicy while giving more flavour than breast.
Another deviation was that I used cashews instead of the more traditional peanuts. It's bloody difficult to find roasted, unsalted peanuts in the supermarket. Rows upon rows of dry roasted, honey roasted, jumbo salted, salted, even lemon and coriander-spiced peanuts, but plain roasted were not to be found and I couldn't be bothered to roast my own, so I settled for a posher nut.
The result is glossy, sweet and spicy velvet-textured meat, with the occasional crunch and richness of the cashew. Eaten with rice, this went down a storm with the family.
Gong Bao Chicken (adapted from 'Sichuan Cookery')
Serves 4 with 2 other dishes, or 2 with rice
325gr chicken thighs, deskinned and boned
4 cloves of garlic chopped & the equivalent of minced ginger
3 stalks of spring onion, sliced diagonally
A handful of whole dried chillis
1 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns
75gr roasted unsalted cashews or peanuts
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp light soy
1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 1/2 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp water
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp dark soy
1 tsp light soy
3 tsp Chinese black vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp water
Snip the chillis in half, discarding the seeds, and soak in boiling water to soften.
Firstly, chop the chicken into chunks around the size of the cashews, maybe a little larger, and put in with all the marinade ingredients and mix well. Next, slice the spring onion so that it's around the same size as the cashews; you want everything roughly the same size.
Mix all your sauce ingredients together in a bowl. Toast the Sichuan peppercorns and then grind into a fine powder.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a wok till almost smoking, and add the chillis, stir-frying for a few seconds, before adding the ground Sichuan pepper in. Add the ginger, garlic and half the spring onion and stir-fry until fragrant. Turn the heat up and add the chicken, cooking for 5 or so minutes, stirring all the time so it doesn't stick or burn. Turn the heat down to medium and add the sauce ingredients and the cashews, simmering for a few minutes until thick and glossy. Toss through the rest of the spring onion and serve.