Kung Pao Feast and Fortune Cookies

Siggy and Sara and I used to go to Big Bowl in Gold Coast a lot when Siggy lived there, and Siggy would order Kung Pao Chicken EVERY SINGLE TIME. So, when I found the recipe in a cookbook called Spices of Life, I knew I’d have to make it for her. And what better time than her birthday? A few weeks ago, we got together at Sara’s and had a feast. Angela made fortune cookies and Sizchuan green beans and Sara made a tofu version of the kung pao (using the same ingredients as those called for in the chicken marinade, and soaking the tofu overnight). What a spread!

tofu version

Wikipedia tells me that it was politically incorrect until the 1980s to refer to this dish as Kung Pao in China, as it’s named after Ding Baozhen, a Qing Dynasty official (“kung pao” is derived from his title as palace guardian), who fell out of favor during the Cultural Revolution. In China, they call this dish fast-fried-chicken-cubes (hong bao ji ding). So, please enjoy these delicious fast fried chicken cubes, which are much easier to make than I’d thought. Or, as Angela put it: A delightful East meets West concoction, devoid of hatred and full of home-cooked energies.

Kung Pao Chicken (or Tofu)
from Nina Simonds’s Spices of LIfe

1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken meat (I used thighs)
(or extra firm tofu)

2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. rice wine or sake
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. cornstarch
4 1/2 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. minced scallions
1 1/2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. hot chile paste or dried chile flakes, to taste
1 1/2 c. thinly sliced water chestnuts, about 8 oz.

1/2 c. chicken broth or water
2 1/2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. rice wine or sake
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp. Chinese black vinegar or Worcestershire sauce
1 1/4 tsp. cornstarch

1 c. diced scallion greens
1 1/2 c. unsalted dry-roasted peanuts

Trim the chicken of any fat or gristle and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Place in a bowl. Add the marinade and toss lightly to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Heat a wok or a skillet, add 2 1/2 tbsp. of oil, heat until very hot, and add the chicken. Cook over high heat until the chicken becomes opaque and is cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with a strainer and drain. Wipe out the pan.

Add the remaining oil and heat until hot. Add the seasonings and stir-fry briefly, about 15 seconds, then add the water chestnuts and stir-fry over high heat for about 1 1/2 minutes to heat through. Add the sauce and cook, stirring continuously to prevent lumps, until thickened. Return the cooked chicken to the pan and add the scallion greens and the peanuts. Toss lightly to coat and heat through. Serve with steamed rice.

Spicy Sichuan-Style Green Beans
from Nina Simmonds’s Spices of Life

2 1/2 lb. green beans, rinsed and drained
2 1/2 tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 tbsp. minced scallions, white part only
2 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. hot chile paste or dried chile flakes

3/4 c. chicken broth
3 tbsp. soy sauce
2 1/2 tbsp. rice wine or sake
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tsp. Chinese black vinegar or Worcestershire sauce
1 1/4 tsp. cornstarch

1/2 c. toasted sliced almonds for garnish

Trim the ends of the beans and cut the beans into 3-inch lenths.

Bring water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the green beans adn bring to a boil again. Reduce the heat to medium and cook uncovered for about 8 minutes, or until almost cooked but still crisp. Drain in a colander and refresh in cold water. Drain again.

Heat a wok or a deep skillet, add the oil and heat until hot. Add the seasonings. Stir-fry briefly, about 15 seconds, then add the sauce. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously to prevent lumps, until thickened. Return the cooked green beans to the pan, toss lightly to coat, and scoop onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds.

Fortune Cookies…from Angela:

In keeping with the Chinese food-themed celebration of our dear Sigela, I offered to make fortune cookies. While I have many strengths (yelling imaginative profanities; delivering swift justice; dancing poorly), baking is not one of them and I was afraid I had bitten off more than I could chew (another one of my strengths). Nevertheless, I found this recipe very easy to put together, and after my first trial batch, I’d like to think I could medal in The North American Fortune Cookie Folding Finals. But practice makes perfect!  I highly recommend making a trial batch before you go for the gold.

Fortune Cookies
From Martha Stewart (http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/fortune-cookies)

5 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 large egg whites
1 c. superfine sugar
1 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
Pinch of salt
3 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tsp. almond extract
Nonstick cooking spray

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet liberally with cooking spray (Note: For my first batch I made sure to spray the cookie sheet, but found that it was more wasteful than anything. There’s enough butter in here that your cookies shouldn’t stick if you’re using a non-stick sheet).  Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (Note: I blended everything by hand and it came out just fine.) combine egg whites and sugar, and beat on medium speed, about 30 seconds. Add flour and salt, and beat until combined. Add butter, heavy cream, and almond extract, and beat until combined, about 30 seconds.

Using a regular teaspoon, spoon a glob of batter onto one half of the baking sheet, and spread with the back of the spoon into a thin 5-inch circle; repeat on the other half of the sheet.  (The tricky part is ensuring that the batter is spread evenly enough.) Bake until the edges of the cookies turn golden brown.  Martha suggests 8 minutes, but I found that 6 minutes was plenty of time in the oven.

Transfer baking sheet to a heat-resistant surface. Working as quickly as possible, slide a spatula under the cookies and place on a clean kitchen towel. Using your fingers, fold the cookie in half, pinching the top together to form a loose semicircle. Hold the cookie with your index fingers inserted at each open end, and slide your thumbs together along the bottom line. Press into the center of the cookie while bending the two open ends together and down to form the shape of a fortune cookie. This whole process should take about 10 seconds. Once the cookie hardens, which begins to happen almost immediately, you cannot fold it. Place the fortune cookie on the kitchen towel to cool, and shape the second cookie. Repeat until all the batter is used up. To speed up the process, bake four cookies at a time, staggering two cookie sheets by 4 minutes to give you time to shape. To avoid wasting batter, practice folding with a circle of paper first.

Write your message on a long strip of sturdy art paper. If you’re hardcore, you can place a strip of paper in the center of the cookie after you’ve baked it but before you fold it, but really I just rolled up a strip of paper and tucked it inside one of it’s cone-y halves.

Stay tuned! I intend to create a vegan version very soon…


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About Kate Soto


One response to “Kung Pao Feast and Fortune Cookies”

  1. Siggy says :

    You just made me hungry Katela! Your Kung Pao and Angela’s special fortune cookies … mmmmhhhhh

    Your version was actually a lot better than BB and since I will never be able to replicate your cooking talents, you’ll have to make it again soon. 🙂

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