Many of WiC’s readers will be familiar with kungpao chicken, a staple offering in Chinatown restaurants around the world. The dish is made with chicken breast (cut into cubes), crunchy peanuts and dried chili peppers. Then it is cooked in sweet bean paste, soy sauce and sugar.
Why is it famous?
Ding Baozhen, a native of Guizhou, was a government official in the Qing dynasty. After he was promoted to the rank of Gongbao (a prestigious title) Ding visited the family of a man in Sichuan who had saved his life when he was young. While he was there Ding was served a dish featuring diced chicken, peanuts and Sichuan peppercorns. He enjoyed it so much that he began eating it on a regular basis and serving it to his guests. It came to be known as Gongbao Jiding in honour of the official (jiding loses a bit of glamour in translation, meaning ‘chicken bits’).
The kungpao spelling derives from the nineteenth century Wade-Giles system for romanising Mandarin (Gongbao is the modern pinyin equivalent, although most eateries in the US and UK have stuck with kungpao as their customers are familiar with it).
More recently, the dish made headline news when German Chancellor Angela Merkel – in China on a state visit – watched a local chef prepare it in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. Then she tucked in. “We thought she would just have a mouthful but she finished about two-thirds of it,” the restaurant owner announced proudly. “She asked us to bring more chopsticks so that other members of her entourage could also taste it.”
Where can you find kungpao chicken?
Sample it in Chengdu if you want an authentic experience like Merkel’s. Chen Mapo is a very popular restaurant in the city. The address is 197 West Yulong Street (near Bank of Communications) in Qingyang District, Chengdu. Tel: +86 (28) 8675-4512.
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