Kung pao sauce is one of the popular home style stir fry sauces in Szechuan cuisine. Making perfect kung pao sauce at home is simple but not an easy task. This is elaine’s detailed guide about how to prepare a kung pao sauce and apply it on your preferred vegetables and ingredients.
Kung pao sauce has two layers of flavor, one is from spices and the other one is from a balance via soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Firstly, we fry garlic, ginger and scallion with dried red pepper. This taste is called as “胡辣味”，which means fried chili pepper taste. To get this unique taste, the dried chili pepper should be fried until dark red. Some restaurants add un-fried red chili pepper to add some red color but they cannot bring the right flavor.
The second layer is a balanced sauce made from sugar, vinegar and soy sauce with starch. Starch works as a thickener and help the sauce sticking to the ingredient.
Important ingredients introductions
Leek onion (大葱) is a popular aromatic ingredient for lots of Chinese stir fries and soups. Comparing with green onion, leek onion provides a stronger flavor. We usually use the white part and discard the very green part and then cut them into sections around 1.5 cm in thickness. I love to keep half of the leek onion sections to the last step and fry them with chili pepper and Szechuan peppercorn.
Szechuan pepper and dried chili pepper : Szechuan peppercorn (花椒) and dried red chili pepper are the two soul ingredients for this dish. It should be a slightly numbing with a gentle touch of hotness. We have three types of dried red pepper used in Sichuan cuisine, but the most popular choice for Kung pao chicken is that small and thin pepper.
The mischievous factor of this sauce is the amount of sugar. I usually add more sugar with protein dishes but use only use half of the sugar in vegetable kong pao dishes like cauliflower, lotus root and mushrooms. Because vegetables and mushrooms have nature sweetness.
Recommended Recipes using this Kung Pao Sauce
- Vegan Kung Pao Tofu
- Authentic Kung Pao Chicken
- Kung Pao Cauliflower
- Kung Pao Lotus Root
- Kung Pao Mushroom
- Kung Pao Shrimp (Kung Pao Prawn)
- 3 tbsp. cooking oil
- 6-9 dried chili pepper
- 1 tsp. Sichuan peppercorn
- 1 thumb ginger, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 leek onion, white part only
- ½ tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- a small pinch of salt (around 1 teaspoon)
- 1 inch ginger grated
- 1 tablespoon chopped green onion
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Cut the white part of leek onion into small circles, around 1cm in thickness.
- Heat wok or pan until hot firstly and then pour in oil. Then add Sichuan pepeprcorn in and fry until aroma. If necessary, remove the Sichuan peppercorn and let the oil cool down for 1 minute.
- Place dried red pepper sections, keep small fire and heat until slightly dark red. Then add garlic, ginger and green onion, fry for 20- 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Then fry any pre-prepared raw ingredients.
- Turn up the fire and stir in stir fry sauce. Fry until the ingredients are well coated.