Monday, 12 March 2012

Opinions from the Kitchen: Kung Pao Variations

Last year, I fell in love with this amazing Kung Pao Shrimp recipe over at Craftzine, and it has been part of our regular meal rotation ever since. It tastes reasonably authentic, and the basic recipe is flexible enough to be customized in a dozen different ways. Personally, I like it very spicy. Next time you're craving Chinese food, make finger-licking-delicious Kung Pao at home instead of ordering out:

Try it with tofu or chicken instead of shrimp. I recommend combining tofu and shrimp if you've got them around.

For a more authentic Sichuan dish, replace some of the red chillies with ground Sichuan peppercorn. (In addition to heat and flavour, these peppercorns have a localized numbing effect. If you've never had them before it's definitely worth trying, but you'll probably want to start small!)

For a Malaysian version, use cashews instead of peanuts.

Make it "American style" by adding vegetables like carrots, snow peas, broccoli, or red pepper. While you're at it, you'll probably want to use more sugar and less red chilli. Delicious, but nowhere near authentic.

Add a touch of sweet & sour by using canned or fresh pineapple. You will want to wait until the very end before you throw in the pineapple so that the flavour doesn't get lost - add them once your sauce has thickened. You may need to add a little bit of extra cornstarch to offset the juiciness of the fruit. If you're using canned pineapple, you can use its juice to replace the water in the cornstarch mixture. It will look something like this: 

The cashew version with added pineapple is probably my favourite. I should admit that I don't have grapeseed oil on hand. Sesame oil works just as well for frying. I also don't bother with whole dried chillies and use crushed red chillies instead. I use 1 1/2 tsp of the crushed chillies, which makes for a hot dish. If you like things mild, use a lot less.



  1. Yummy! I'm going to have to try this recipe.

  2. We love Kung Pao-I'm giving this a try. Thanks.

  3. My hubby keeps walking past this picture on the comp, and telling me how good it looks.:) Looks like I need to try it. THanks for all the variation ideas.:)

  4. Hey MC,

    Prawns are super popular here and I'm actually learning to like them, so this might work really well. Are you frying the tofu first, or just cooking them like you cook the prawns?