This is a very popular Sichuan dish that been borrowed by Thai cooks. It’s original name is 宫保鸡丁 (gong bao ji ding). In Thailand, it’s simply called chicken fried with cashew nuts. A rather long “gai pad met ma muang him ma pan”. Sometimes shortened as “gai pad met ma muang”.
Like many popular dishes, there are many versions of it around the world. You can find it in a restaurant menu. You can also find it at an economical rice stall. It’s difficult to tell which version is most authentic. Just check out Youtube and you’ll see dozens of different ways of preparing it.
I guess it probably doesn’t matter who is more authentic. I’m sure the Thai version is flavoured with fish sauce. The important question to ask is whether a particular style suits your taste buds. That said, this is Dr Chan’s 宫保鸡丁.
First, I would cut my chicken fillet into “cubes” and season them with soy sauce, hua diao wine and olive oil. Then, I microwave them at high heat for 10 minutes till they are pretty dry and slightly brown. Some folks are dead against microwave (they deep fry instead), but this is basically a very oily dish and I want to cut down the use of fat as much as possible.
While the chicken is cooking, I would fry my dried chilli. Fry it until the dried chilli is a little burnt and the oil turns red.
Some people skip this (red peppercorn), but I find it indispensable in 宫保鸡丁. In a metal spoon, I would fry this in chilli oil until pungent fumes rise from the pot. I would then discard them. I just need the fragrance in the oil. The peppercorns are not pleasant to chew, so I don’t mix them up with the chicken.
The microwaved chicken is now fried in the chilli oil. Once the chicken has taken up some of that chilli oil, I would pour in some cashew nuts. I actually prefer a whiter variety of cashew nuts, it they weren’t available on that day.
There’s not much of a gravy in 宫保鸡丁, but this final seasoning is important. It contains sugar, black vinegar, soy sauce, water and starch.
Pour in the seasoning, stir well and the 宫保鸡丁 is ready to be served. I’ve made quite a lot of modifications to recipes I’ve come across, but what matters most is that the dish must be tasty and not too unhealthy.
© Chan Joon Yee