Gong Bao Chicken, also transcribed as Kung Pao or Kung Po, is a spicy stir-fry dish made with chicken, peanuts, vegetables, and chili peppers. The classic dish in Sichuan cuisine originated in the Sichuan Province of south-western China and includes Sichuan peppercorns.
The dish is believed to be named after Ding Baozhen (1820-1886), a late Qing Dynasty official, and governor of Sichuan Province. His title was Gongbao . The name "Kung Pao" chicken is derived from this title.
The original Sichuan version uses chicken as its primary ingredient. In this original version, diced chicken is typically mixed with a prepared marinade. The wok is seasoned and then chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns are flash-fried to add fragrance to the oil. Then the chicken is stir-fried and vegetables, along with peanuts, are added. Shaoxing wine is used to enhance flavor in the marinade.
Kung Pao chicken starts off with fresh, moist, unroasted peanuts or cashew nuts. These are often used instead of their pre-roasted versions. The peanuts or cashew nuts are dropped into the hot oil on the bottom of the wok first, then deep-fried until golden brown before the other ingredients are added.
In Sichuan, or when preparing authentic Kung Pao chicken, only Sichuan-style chili peppers such as facing heaven pepper or seven stars pepper are used. Smaller, thinner Sichuanese varieties may also be used.