Kung Pao Chicken, also transcribed as Gong Bao 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. Although the dish is found throughout China, there are regional variations that are typically less spicy than the Sichuan serving. Kung Pao chicken is also a staple of westernized Chinese cuisine.
Kung Pao Chicken in Sichuan
With few exceptions, in American Chinese restaurants, Gong Bao Ji Ding is rife with ingredients not usually found in the mainland versions: water chestnuts, green peppers, broccoli, baby corn and a multitude of “fillers” which lower the restaurants’ food cost and dilute the traditional dish.
In Sichuan, the de-facto home of this dish, the presentation generally contains only chicken breast meat, peanuts, chilies, chili sauce and other seasonings. As always, the name and origin of the dish is obscured by time and folklore. Most commentators agree that it is named after a Qing dynasty Sichuan governor, whose title was Gong Bao. The Ji Ding translates as “chicken cut into small cubes.” Even with the changes it has gone through coming to the states, the popularity of Kung Pao Chicken is a testament to the simple genius of the dish. Gong Bao Ji Ding is just as well known in China. No Sichuan restaurant on the mainland would be complete without it.