Chapter 19 – Kung Pao Chicken (Part 1)
Rehosted by – Kitchennovel.com
Re-Translated and Edited by Gumihou
With the encouragement of silver, the chefs grew motivated. No matter who they had disagreements with, not one of them would disdain money, ah!
Thus, with money as the incentive, they all whipped out their treasured specialities. In a short while, the kitchen began to heat up, literally, the occasional burst of orange flames under woks could be seen here and there. In a short while, various delicious smells began to bloomed, overwhelming the stink of Stinky Tofu. In was really incredible.
All of the chefs here were quite capable, and their foundations were rock solid. After taste testing everything, Shiyu nodded and allowed everyone to stay. A new rule was set, a chef who knows one speciality dish would get 10 silver taels a month, those who knows two speciality dishes will get 20 silver tael per month.
The chefs were naturally happy with the deal, but were also a little wary of this good fortune. They began to ask, “If they really pay up, that’s a few hundred silver taels per month, did she really have the money to pay us? Would the restaurant really do so well?”
“Who cares, as long as we get paid we’ll stay. The moment the money dries up, we can just leave, right?”
With such a win-win situation, everyone collectively decided to stay.
Shiyu naturally knew what was on everyone’s mind, and added a condition to their agreement. Anyone who’s speciality received more than five complaints would be fired. This was to prevent them from shirking their work.
Once everything had been agreed, Shiyu decided to show off her skills. She had to establish the fact that she has the ability to lead them in the kitchen. The dish she selected was Kung Pao Chicken.
“Xiao Wu, you watch carefully.” Shiyu urged the little kid. The most important thing now was to train up Xiao Wu. However, this kid was still a little child, and unless he was secretly a reincarnated chef, there was no way he could master every dish immediately.
The chefs also gathered around to watch a good show. When they saw Shiyu select a piece of breast meat, they all shook their heads and muttered among themselves.
As everyone knew, a chicken’s least popular bit of meat is the breast meat. That meat dried out easily and did not absorb flavour well. If you cook it too long, it will become so tough and stringy that you’ll be picking bits of meat out of your teeth for a long time. It was clearly inferior compared to the legs and wings.
Therefore, the moment Shiyu selected this part of meat, half of them lost interest. They had been wondering just what kind of master chef she was, but it turned out that her skills were only so-so.
“Whatever, you guys stick around, I’m going to take a look outside.” two chefs left, their leaving less than enthusiastic friends behind.
By now, Shiyu had placed the breast meat on top of a chopping board and began to beat the meat lightly with the back of her knife.
At this curious action, some of them began to laugh. Was she trying to beat life back into a dead lump of meat?
After she had deemed the meat properly beaten, Shiyu flipped the knife over and began dicing the meat. The dice meat were then slid into a bowl where she added oil, salt, flour, wine and a little chilli oil. After a thorough mixing, she set it aside.
At this, the chefs’ curiosity were piqued, just what was going on?
In addition to chicken, the other main ingredient to this dish is fresh peanuts.
“Lao Er, where are those shelled peanuts? Bring them here.”
Very quickly, a bowl of snow white peanuts, all shelled and skinned were brought over. Shiyu started the fire under a wok and poured in quite a bit of oil. When it was hot enough, in went the peanuts. Aside from the occasional stirring, all was quiet as she waited for the peanuts to change colour. Soon, a lovely fragrance began to permeate the room. When the peanuts had turned a pale golden, Shiyu fished them out and left them to cool.
“Aiya, isn’t it too early to take out those peanuts? Look at them, they’re barely brown.” Someone called out. People began to wonder if this little girl really knew how to cook. What was she doing taking out food before it was properly done?
Just then, Shiyu glanced up, and offered up the newly fried peanuts, “Why don’t you try one and let me know.”
The chef looked a little unwilling, but since she’s the boss, no matter how young, he finally picked one up and ate it.
A sharp crunch was heard when he bit down. It was incredibly loud and everyone looked over incredulously. The chef’s eyes widened, “How… how can this be?”[Please scroll down for Cooking Tip from Gumihou]
Shiyu smirked, “You’re wondering why it’s so crisp, right? Since it still looks under done it should still be soft, right? But look, just how big is a peanut? The moment they left the wok, they’re still cooking. If I take it out the moment it looks done, it will be overdone by the time it cooled.”
“Oh, so it’s like this.” that chef nodded head, and picked up another peanut.
After setting the peanuts aside, Shiyu quickly sliced up a stalk of leek and a handful of dried chillies and set those aside as well. Next, she got a small bowl and added vinegar, sugar, and some cooking wine into it. After some thought, she grated some ginger and added ginger juice into into the bowl. A quick stir later, it was ready.
By now the chicken should be done marinated by now. In a clean wok, she heated up some oil and dropped the cubed chicken first to stir fry. Once the chicken had turned white, she dropped the chopped chillies, leek, and grated ginger sauce. A powerful fragrance immediately suffused the room.
Chefs who had been busily watching the show drew closer at the mouth watering scent. The peered into the wok and, why were the chicken meat so tender looking? Why hadn’t it toughened up from cooking? By the time Shiyu poured in the sauce, the sharp scent mellowed, and the white cubes of meat took on an attractive brown colour.
A final stir later, she dished out the chicken onto a plate and scatter the fried peanuts on top. With this, the Kung Pao Chicken was done.
This time, there was no need for Shiyu to invite them, the chefs all came over, chopsticks in hand.
As soon as a piece of chicken entered their mouths, the chefs all exchanged looks.
This texture, this flavour… could this really be breast meat?
The tender and moist chicken paired wonderfully with the crispy peanuts. The spicy sauce provided a wonderful kick that really stimulates the appetite. It made them want to eat bowls after bowls of rice.
Xiao Wu and Xiao Qi’s mouth watered as they waited for their turn to eat. However, they were much smaller than the adults and had to wait their turn. Once the adults had paused their rush, they all seized the chance to snatch a piece of the Kung Pao Chicken for themselves.
Once the plate was cleaned off, Shiyu smiled at them, “Well? Is this good enough to be our speciality?”
“Of course!” The chefs all agreed. “This dish is completely unique, one of a kind. Not a single restaurant in Qing Shan City has anything like this!”
“I’m willing to take a lower pay if I can eat this every day.” another chef declared.
Shiyu waved her hand, hinting for them to quiet down. “Actually,.there’s a reason why I made this dish in front of everyone. Anyone who can recreate this dish perfectly would immediately be paid a 100 tael salary.”
Cooking Tip from Gumihou!
When frying peanuts, cashews or other nut things:
- It’s better to start with a cold wok, Shiyu did a boo boo using hot oil.
Here’s why: By starting with cold oil, you basically simmer the peanuts. Which is why you sometimes get recipes that tells you to boil the nuts first before drying and frying them. However, this is too troublesome, starting with cold oil and using the stove’s lowest setting achieved the same results without having to boil, drain, dry the nuts before finally crisping them.
Since I can’t tell how hot it was, well. Let’s say if you use really hot oil, you’ll get crunchy on the outside and squidgy on the inside. However, since the peanuts were fresh, she might get away with it.
- When the oil starts to heat up, just stir it around with a spatula to make sure your heat is evenly spread out. This should take about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the amount of oil you use. Let the oil simmer until the nuts starts to change colour
- Take out the nuts just a few shades lighter than what you’d like and place them in a pile. They will continue to brown.
- If the colour is close to what you like them to be, or too brown, shake your cooling pan to spread out your nuts. This will prevent further browning.
- If you want to add herbs or salt, this is the time to do it.
For anyone who’s interested, here’s a Kung Pao Recipe from Chef Wang. He used chicken thigh meat though.
Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.
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