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Kung Pao Chicken is regarded by many as the most popular Chinese dish internationally. You can find it in almost any Chinese restaurant overseas. Its popularity, as said by netizens, has made it a name card for Chinese cuisine.

Kung Pao Chicken is a dish from Sichuan cuisine, but originally, it originated from Lu cuisine in Shandong Province. Its flavor mixes sour, sweetness, numbness and spiciness, with the first two as the major ones.


A photo features Kung Pao Chicken. /VCG Photo

Because it’s not extremely spicy, it’s also an accessible dish for seniors and kids. Therefore, it’s regarded as a good choice for the feast on Spring Festival Eve, when most Chinese families enjoy time together.

The dish is believed to be the creation of Ding Baozhen, an official during the Qing Dynasty. Ding served as a governor in Shandong Province and later in Sichuan Province. 

He favored peanuts and spicy food, so he revised the Shandong dish “Jiang Bao Chicken” by add chili to it. After he came to Sichuan, the dish was popularized.


A photo features the traditional Lu dish, Jiang Bao Chicken. /VCG Photo

The name “Kung Pao,” or “Gong Bao” is Ding’s honorary title. Because he made quite a few achievements during his time, he was honored with the title of “Gong Bao” by the Qing emperor.

The dish spread so widely that it’s since been localized in various places. Some even use meat instead of chicken to cook this dish. When it went West, the people there also revised it according to their own preferences.

The recipe for Kung Pao Chicken is simple. First, you need to marinate the chicken. Add some sugar, salt, Sichuan pepper powder, starch, cooking wine, and light soy sauce onto the chicken cubes, and marinate for 30 minutes. 


A family enjoying a Spring Festival Eve feast together. The second dish (L, behind) is Kung Pao Chicken. /VCG Photo

Secondly, you need to prepare a special sauce. Put some salt, sugar, mature vinegar, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, cooking wine, and starch into a bowl, and mix them together. Next, stir-fry peanuts and chicken respectively and ladle them out.

Start the final step by frying Sichuan pepper, chili, and spring onions together. Then put the chicken and peanuts in, before pouring in the specially-made sauce. When the sauce thickens, the Kung Pao Chicken is ready to serve!

If you’re a fan of Kung Pao Chicken, don’t forget to eat it on Spring Festival Eve this year!

(Cover Image by Qu Bo)