Kung Pao Chicken Tacos

It must be Taco Week here at BistroBess!  Today I have another spin on classic tacos, this time with an Asian flair. 

Fusing the classic Mexican taco with ingredients from other countries, particularly Korea and other parts of Asia, is a big culinary trend right now.  Many credit this to the popularity of food trucks, which use the portable taco as the perfect vehicle to deliver a variety of flavors.  One of my favorites here in DC is TaKorean, which I recommend you seek out for lunch some day soon.

These Kung Pao tacos are packing some heat, thanks to a healthy dose of fresh chile paste.  Sambal Oelek is available at most grocery stores in the Asian section.  It can be potent, so use with caution!

Kung Pao Chicken Tacos

adapted from Cooking Light

  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 TB lower-sodium soy sauce, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch, divided
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 TBs canola oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 TB honey
  • 1 TB dark sesame oil
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 TB sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste). This makes the tacos quite spicy.  If you prefer less spice, start with 1 tsp and go from there
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions, about two large
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 large carrot, diagonally sliced (or about 10-12 baby carrots)
  • 3 TB coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts
  • corn tortillas, warmed in the oven or in a dry skillet

Place chicken in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce to bag; seal. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.  While chicken marinates, combine 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, honey, and next 4 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Set aside for later use.

Place 1/4 cup cornstarch in a shallow dish. Remove chicken from bag and add to cornstarch in dish, and toss chicken to thoroughly coat. Shake off excess cornstarch.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add half of coated chicken; sauté for 6 minutes or until done, turning to brown. Remove chicken from pan using a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Repeat the procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon canola oil and coated chicken.  Set chicken aside. 

With the heat still on medium high, add remaining canola oil, if needed.  Add onion, pepper and carrot and sauté until crisp tender, about 2 minutes.  Put chicken back in the pan, stir in soy sauce mixture.  Sauce should thicken up and coat the chicken and veggies.

Top heated tortillas with the chicken and veggie mixture.  Sprinkle on chopped peanuts and garnish with extra green onions, if desired.

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Glazed Chicken and Szechuan Noodle Salad

I am really bad at this blogging thing.  I get busy, it gets cold and dark, and the next thing you know, it’s been 7 months since the last time I blogged.  No excuses, just going to take another stab at it.  I hope at least a few people are still reading this…

My love of Cooking Light Magazine has been documented on this blog in the past, as many of my recipe adaptations start there.  While not always the most gourmet dishes in the world, Cooking Light is a great resource for quick dinners and lightened up versions of classics.  Most of the recipes are very simple, and leave a lot of room for interpretation…adding spice, herbs, and proteins to your taste.  (I am not being paid by Cooking Light.  Obviously.)

That said, I pretty much followed the recipe on this one.  As you can see from the pictures, we decided to chop up the grilled chicken at the end and tossed it in with the noodles.  The recipe calls for bottled Szechuan sauce, and I found something the in the Asian aisle of the grocery store called Spicy Szechuan Stir Fry sauce, so I used that.  It. Was. Spicy.  So, tread lightly with that one!  We added a side of simply roasted broccoli (head of broccoli cut into florets, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, Roast at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes) for a complete meal.

Glazed Chicken and Szechuan Noodle Salad

Adapted from Cooking Light

  • 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons lower-sodium soy sauce, divided
  • 1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I used the thin sliced breasts, so the cooking time was reduced
  • 6 ounces uncooked udon noodles (thick, fresh Japanese wheat noodles) or whole-wheat linguine
  • 1/4 cup bottled Szechuan sauce
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-fat creamy peanut butter  
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice  
  • 1 cup matchstick-cut carrots (I used bagged, shredded carrots)
  • 1/2 cup matchstick-cut green onions

Combine ginger, hoisin, olive oil and 2 teaspoons of soy sauce in a medium bowl; stir well. Add chicken; toss to coat.  You can allow to marinate for up to an hour, but it is not necessary. 

Heat the grill or grill pan to medium high. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill until done. The thin cut breasts will cook in 3-4 minutes per side, larger pieces of chicken could take up to 15-18 minutes total.  I recommend a meat thermometer for this!  Remove from grill; cover.

Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain well. Combine Szechuan sauce, peanut butter, remaining soy sauce, and juice in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add noodles, carrots, and green onions; toss and serve immediately with chicken on the side, or cut chicken up and stir into the noodles.