This recipe can be served with rice and perhaps a side of steamed greens drizzled with a teaspoon searingly hot sunflower oil and a little soy sauce mixed with water. Also known as Kung Pao chicken, this is a fabulous hot-sweet-sour Sichuan-Chinese dish and is very quick to make – once you’ve assembled all the ingredients.

Chaotian chillies, also known as facing heaven chillies, are hot and fragrant chilli peppers. Unlike other chillies which point down as they grow, the chaotian chilli points up to the sky – hence the unusual name. Dried chaotian chillies are a pantry staple in the Sichuan province of China. Fry them in oil to release their fragrance, then pair with cold and numbing Sichuan peppercorns for a classic Sichuan meal.

Gong Bao Chicken with Chaotian Chilli
Serves 3-4

1 egg white
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
½ tsp salt
500g skinless boneless chicken breast or thigh, cut into 1-2cm pieces
1 large red pepper
4 spring onions (some for garnish)
4 large garlic cloves
1 fat inch peeled fresh ginger
12 chillies or 8g chaotian chilli peppers
80g roasted salted peanuts (if unsalted, just add ½ tsp salt when you add the peanuts later)

For the sauce
1 tbsp cornflour
3 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1½ tbsp Chinkiang vinegar
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1½ tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
8 tbsp cold chicken or vegetable stock
Around 8 tbsp sunflower oil

Tableware
Blue Rice pattern Chinese tableware

  1. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together egg white, cornflour, Shaoxing rice wine and salt.
  2. Add the chicken and mix to coat.
  3. Place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes (or up to a day, if planning ahead). Meanwhile prepare your other ingredients.
  4. Cut the red pepper into 1cm pieces, discarding the seeds and stem.
  5. Cut away the green parts of 4 spring onions, finely slice and set aside for garnish.
  6. Slice the white part of the spring onion stem on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces.
  7. Mince together the garlic cloves and peeled fresh ginger.
  8. Snip the chaotian chilli peppers into halves, tipping out and discarding the seeds.
  9. Measure out the roasted salted peanuts (if unsalted, just add ½ tsp salt when you add the peanuts later).

For the sauce

  1. Measure the sauce ingredients into a small bowl: cornflour, Shaoxing rice wine, dark brown sugar, Chinkiang vinegar, light soy sauce, tbsp dark soy sauce, sesame oil and cold chicken or vegetable stock.
  2. Heat 4 tbsp sunflower oil in your wok over a high heat. Add the chicken pieces and let sit for a minute. Move about with a spatula and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes, until starting to brown.
  3. Lift out with a slotted spoon and set aside in a clean bowl. Pour away any extra oil, and clean out the wok.
  4. Add another 2 tbsp of sunflower oil to the wok on a high heat. Add the chopped pepper and spring onion and stir-fry for 1½ minutes until starting to blister.
  5. Using a slotted spoon, lift into the bowl with the chicken. Wipe out the wok with kitchen roll.
  6. Add a further 2 tbsp sunflower oil to the wok. When hot, add the chaotian chillies and 2 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns. Stir-fry for 30 seconds without burning.
  7. Add the chopped ginger and garlic and stir-fry for another minute.
  8. Add the cooked chicken, peppers, spring onions and peanuts and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes.
  9. Pour in the sauce and simmer for a few minutes until thickened and chicken is cooked through.

Garnish with finely sliced spring onion greens and serve immediately.