The funny thing about making the kung pao chicken from Diana Kuan’s new The Chinese Takeout Cookbook is that I never order kung pao chicken at restaurants. Heck, I didn’t even know what it was exactly, but the photo in the cookbook got me excited to try it out. Of course like the last recipe I made from Diana’s book, this one had to be adapted a bit. I used gluten-free soy sauce in the marinade and sauce, so that was easy. The tricky part is the hoisin. It seems a bit odd to me, but hoisin sauce almost always contains wheat starch. I’ve heard there are some gluten-free brands, but I haven’t come across them yet. The recipe called for just a teaspoon of hoisin, but I had to improvise because it seemed important to the overall flavor. At the risk of making Diana cringe again, I substituted this San-J sweet and tangy sauce — that brand is very good about marketing to gluten-free people, and so I’d recently stocked up on their products to try them out. I can’t say for sure that it tasted just like Diana’s recipe, but it seemed to work really well.
I did try to find Sichuan pepper at my local markets, but I had no luck. I’m sure I can get it in Chinatown, but that was a bit too out of my way. I’ll be curious to try this recipe again with it. I made one more switch by using some regular onion instead of scallion whites — it’s hard to explain, but I’d used scallion whites earlier in the day and just had the greens left over, which I used here for garnishing. I think the rest of the recipe was pretty much as Diana said. It’s funny how soupy it looks in this skillet photo, because it didn’t seem that way when I plated it. But who cares how it looks… it tasted so great. This is going to be a new go-to recipe at my house.