Kung Pao Chicken

I love Chinese food but have never attempted any recipes because I thought it would be too difficult with too many ingredients. Happily, I was wrong. This is a surprisingly easy recipe, full of flavor. You can control the heat by adding more or less dried chilies (or substitute chili flakes if you don't happen to have any).

Recipe

3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 T. oyster-flavored sauce
1 tsp. cornstarch
8 small dried red chilies
4 tsp. minced garlic
2-1/2 T. cooking oil

SAUCE:
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. chicken broth
3 T. Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 T. hoisin sauce
1 T. soy sauce
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tsp. chili garlic sauce
2 tsp. sugar

STIR FRY:
2 celery stalks, diced (cut diagonally)
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
1/2 c. diced bamboo shoots
2 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1 T. water
1/2 c. roasted cashews (or walnuts)

Combine the oyster sauce and 1 tsp. cornstarch in a bowl. Add chicken and stir to coat. Let stand for 15 minutes. Combine sauce ingredients in another bowl and set aside.

Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add 2 T. oil, swirling to coat sides. Add chilies and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add chicken and stir-fry for about 3 minutes. Remove chicken and chilies from wok and set aside.

Add remaining 1/2 T. oil to wok. Add garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add celery, bell pepper, and bamboo shoots and stir-fry for 1-1/2 minutes. Return chicken and chilies to wok and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Add sauce and bring to a boil. Add cornstarch solution and cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens. Add cashews and toss to coat. Serves 4.

– Martin Yan