Kung pao, a classic flavor profile in Sichuan cuisine, is characterized by a balance of spicy, savory, sour, and sweet tastes. The sauce is versatile and can be applied to many canvases, most famously on chicken. I’ve made everything from kung pao eel to venison to tofu, but the version I frequently make is shrimp, since it comes together quickly. Take caution when you fry the dried chilies. Depending on how hot your chilis are, the room and your lungs might fill with smoke, so try not to take any deep breaths and definitely turn on the exhaust fan and open the windows.
Excerpted from The Book of Sichuan Chili Crisp by Jing Gao. Copyright © 2023 Jing Gao. Photography by Yudi Ela Echevarria and Robert Nilsson. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Kung pao sauce
Kung pao shrimp
In a small bowl, mix all kung pao sauce ingredients together until well-combined. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. When ready to use, make sure to mix well again before cooking.
In a wok or frying pan over high heat, add the oil and heat until smoking. Add the chilis and Sichuan pepper and fry quickly so they don’t burn, 10 to 20 seconds. Add the ginger, garlic, and scallions and fry until fragrant. Add the celery and shrimp and flash-fry for about 3 minutes, until the shrimp start to turn pink.
Pour in the sauce, stirring to make sure it coats all the ingredients evenly for 1 minute. The sauce will thicken as soon as it hits the heat, so move quickly here. Stir in the cashews at the very end before transferring to a serving platter.
Garnish with the microgreens (if using) and serve immediately with rice.
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