Kung Pao Sauce

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For the Chinese New Year, I decided I would season the wok that I’ve had for several years but never used. I’d never seasoned a wok before, and I didn’t do a good job the first time. The basic idea behind seasoning a wok is to incorporate oil into the hot metal wok to make it non-stick. You heat a wok; add oil; let the oil heat up (and likely smoke); and coat the inner surface of the wok with the smoking hot oil. You’re supposed to go through this process two or three times, but I was impatient; I decided to try cooking in it before it was ready, and the food stuck. So, lesson learned: go through the seasoning process two or three times before cooking, or else.

Now that my wok is more appropriately seasoned, it cooks well. To test it, I made a stirfry. Nothing fancy – just some broccoli and cabbage that I bought on sale. I can crank my gas burner up high because the wok doesn’t have a nonstick coating, and so it cooks everything quickly. It’s awesome.

I didn’t really have a recipe for a stirfry, but my friend Brion shared Ming Tsai’s Kung Pao sauce recipe with me, and that seemed like a great way to flavor my food. I honestly think it took less than 10 minutes to make.

simple stirfry with Kung Pao Sauce

The sauce was quick and easy to make – much like a properly executed stirfry. I didn’t make this recipe in the wok, though. Rather, I made it in advance in a saucepan and stored it in the fridge until I needed it.

I made a half batch. I sauteed 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic and 1 tablespoon of grated ginger in a little vegetable oil. I added a tablespoon of Sriracha and sauteed the mixture briefly. I added 1/2 cup soy sauce, scraped up any seasonings that might be stuck, and then added 1 1/2 tablespoon sugar, and 1/4 cup rice vinegar. Once the mixture was bubbly, I added was 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1/2 tablespoon water and stirred the sauce until it thickened. I stored the sauce in a glass container in the fridge and drizzled some on stirfries as needed. Generally, I think you should mix it into your stirfries while you cook them, but I’m not confident that my wok is seasoned well enough for that yet.

Not only was the kung pao sauce easy to make; it was tasty. It was dark and tangy, spicy without being too hot. It was good on my simple broccoli and cabbage stirfry, but I wish I could have tried to make kung pao chicken with it. One nice thing about this sauce is that it’s fast to make and will store well. Although I didn’t make it in the evening after work, I would have had time to. I look forward to making this recipe again sometime.

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