- For the Szechuan Oil
- 2 ¼ teaspoons annatto seeds
- ½ piece star anise
- 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
- ½ cup canola oil
- For the Kung Pao Sauce
- 6 ½ ounces toban djan (fermented chili bean sauce)
- ½ cup oyster sauce
- ⅓ cup Shaoxing wine
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar
- ⅓ cup sweet chili sauce
- 1.5 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- For the Chicken
- 1 ½ cups rice flour
- 1 ¼ cups water
- canola oil, for frying
- 2 lbs. chicken wings
- For Garnish
- chopped peanuts
- chopped cilantro
- sliced scallion greens
One night at his eponymous Brooklyn restaurant, former Top Chef contestant Dale Talde tasked his cooks with replicating the Americanized version of kung pao that they all jones for after grueling double kitchen shifts. When nothing but a hit of salty, spicy, tangy goodness will do, this should be your go-to recipe. You can find toban djan, annatto seeds, Szechuan peppercorns, and other ingredients at any well-stocked Asian market, or venture to an online source to fill out your pantry. A double fry may seem fussy, but the results—tender meat and a crunchy, sauce-soaked shell—make it oh-so-very worthwhile.
1. Make the Szechuan oil: Combine the annatto seeds, star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, and canola oil in a small saucepan. Gently bring the oil to a simmer, turn off the heat, and let the spices steep for 30 minutes. Strain the oil through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, discarding any solids.
2. Make the kung pao sauce: In a medium bowl, whisk together the toban djan, oyster sauce, wine, vinegar, chili sauce, sesame oil, and the Szechuan oil. Reserve.
3. Fry the chicken: In a large bowl, whisk together the rice flour and water to form a batter with the consistency of crepe batter, adding additional water by the tablespoonful if necessary. Fill a large pot halfway with oil and heat to 275°F. Working in batches, dredge the wings in the rice batter, shaking off the excess, and fry until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool for 15 minutes.
Raise the oil temperature to 325°F and fry the wings in batches until golden brown and cooked through, an additional 6 to 7 minutes. Drain the wings of any excess oil, then transfer to a large bowl and toss in the kung pao sauce. Garnish with peanuts, cilantro, and scallions.
Recipe from Fried & True: More Than 50 Recipes for America’s Best Fried Chicken and Sides by Lee Brian Schrager with Adeena Sussman.
Try making just half the sauce.