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Gong Bao Ji Ding: A Recipe for Kung Pao Chicken and the History of the Legendary Chinese Dish.

Updated on January 24, 2013

Gongbao Ji Ding (Kung Pao Chicken)

A bowl of Gongbao Ji Ding (Kung Pao Chicken) cooked by Wesley following this recipe.
A bowl of Gongbao Ji Ding (Kung Pao Chicken) cooked by Wesley following this recipe. | Source

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Kung Pao Chicken

In this hub article I will show you a basic recipe for Kung Pao Chicken. For many Americans this is a favorite among Chinese dishes. The recipe I will give you is as authentic as possible. I learned how to cook this in China with the help of a Chinese friend. The recipe that I'm giving you here is actually the second of two recipes that I've learned for this dish. The first was a little complicated and included more ingredients. This one is much easier to follow and produces a dish that is every bit as good. The final product should look like the above picture.

The History of Kung Pao Chicken

In China Kung Poa Chicken is called Gongbao Ji Ding. The word ji means Chicken. The word ding means cut into small cubes or diced.

Though Gongbao Ji Ding is a favorite dish served though out most of China it is considered a traditional example of Sichuan Cuisine. According to Du Fuxiang in his book Chinese Culinary Culture the dish originated in the late Qing Dynasty and was first prepared by the family chef of a man Ding Baozhen. While Gongbao Ji Ding is strongly associated with Sichuan cuisine, In Chinese Culinary Culture Du Fuxiang listed it as an example of Shandong cuisine. There is a good reason for this.

Ding Baozhen was originally from the province of Guizhou which is south of Sichuan. He was a public official who served for a number of years as governor of the Shandong province which is on the east coast of China just south of Beijing. He was later appointed governor over Sichuan province.

Du Fuxiang states that the dish in it's original form was always served at family banquets during the time that Ding Baozhen served as governor in Shandong. When Ding Baozhen was made governor of Sichuan he introduced the dish there. In Sichuan, Ding Baozhen modified the dish by adding peppers in order to please local people who enjoyed spicy foods.

The word Gongbao was a tittle that was given to Ding Baozhen by the Qing court during the time that he served them. Gong was a tittle given by royal families to men who served as governors of provinces. Essentially if you were to translate the name of the dish Gongboa Ji Ding literally you would have "Governor Bao's Diced Chicken."

Gongbao Ji Ding quickly became a favorite among the people of Sichuan province. From there it spread all over China. Like many popular Chinese dishes it was introduced to North America in the 1800s by Chinese emigrants who worked on the construction of Central Pacific portion of the American transcontinental railroad. Most of the Chinese railroad workers were brought from the province of Guangdong which is populated by Cantonese people. The Cantonese people who introduced this dish to America would have altered the dish to their own tastes as well as to ingredients that they could easily find in America. The version of Kung Pao Chicken that is served in most of the Chinese restaurants across America reflects the changes that were made during this time.

Gongbao Ji Ding from a Restaurant in Wuhan, China

This is Gonbao Ji Ding prepared by a local restaurant in Wuhan, Hubei China.
This is Gonbao Ji Ding prepared by a local restaurant in Wuhan, Hubei China. | Source


When I first arrived in China one of the things that I was most interested in concerning food was being able to try truly authentic Chinese dishes. After a few months here I became aware of the fact that many dishes change depending on which restaurant you go to. This led to my asking an important question.

What is authentic?

What I've found is that often recipes change from one restaurant to another. There are many reasons for this. One is that often the cooks in each restaurant use family recipes that they were taught at home by their parents. Many restaurants are family owned. Sometimes they use recipes that were taught to them by other cooks. Also, it is common for restaurants to want to create special dishes and to make things their own. A restaurant may change a recipe slightly in order to differentiate themselves from others. Variations of a dish are also created due to regional differences.

This last reason means that if you order Gongbao Ji Ding in Sichuan province you will be served a dish that has chicken, peanuts, carrots and red peppers. If you order this same dish in Guangdong province the dish will likely be served with cucumber instead of carrots.

Knowing these factors makes the question of authenticity somewhat less relevant because on the one hand none of it is truly authentic and on the other all of it is authentic. If you think about it this means that the Americanized version of Kung Pao Chicken is just as authentic as the original Sichuan variation of the dish or the even more original Shandong version.

With these thoughts in mind I have gradually become less concerned with authenticity and more concerned with what I enjoy. The recipe given here is authentically Chinese in that it comes from China and was given to me by Chinese people. I have changed nothing other than writing it down in English and giving measurements to quantities of ingredients that are often listed without measurements. Aside from it's authenticity it is a recipe that I enjoy cooking and I hope that you enjoy it as well.

Also with these thoughts in mind I believe that modifying the dish is part of the tradition of preparing gongbao ji ding. Since change is part of this grand tradition then we should always change the dish to suit our own purposes and predilections. Cook, create, change and enjoy.

Another Variation of Gongbao Ji Ding

This is another version of Kung Pao Chicken cooked by Wesley a few months before. This recipe was a little more complicated and included more ingredients.
This is another version of Kung Pao Chicken cooked by Wesley a few months before. This recipe was a little more complicated and included more ingredients. | Source

Things to Know Before you Start Cooking

You will notice that the cooking time is very short. The actual cooking of this dish happens very rapidly. I strongly recommend that all of the preparation of the ingredients is done before you start cooking. Once you start cooking the chicken you will not have time to cut the carrots. Chop everything first.

In the ingredients I've listed la jiao, dry red peppers and Sichuan peppers. All three of these are hot. If you don't enjoy spicy food you can omit any one or all of them.

La jiao simply means spicy sauce. It is a kind of sauce that you should easily be able to find in the Asian part of a grocery store. It looks like a thick, red paste made from what looks like seeds of hot peppers. You've probably seen this before and just didn't know what it was. I've seen this on the tables of several Chinese restaurants in America.

Sichuan peppers you've also probably seen but may not have known what they were. They are little round things that you often see in spicy Chinese dishes. They aren't hot exactly. Rather, they make your lips and tongue tingle. For me, I find this an enjoyable experience. If you don't like it leave them out. Again you should be able to find this in any good grocery store with an Asian section.

Any kind of dried red peppers should do fine in this dish.

Ingredients for Kung Pao Chicken

Clockwise; peanuts, chicken, cucumber, and carrots.
Clockwise; peanuts, chicken, cucumber, and carrots. | Source
Left to right; la jiao, Chinese cooking wine and soy sauce.
Left to right; la jiao, Chinese cooking wine and soy sauce. | Source
Close up of la jiao bottle.
Close up of la jiao bottle. | Source
About a tbs of la jiao in a bowl.
About a tbs of la jiao in a bowl. | Source
Close up picture of the la jiao.
Close up picture of the la jiao. | Source

Cook Time

Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 10 min
Ready in: 40 min
Yields: Serves two


  • 1/2 cup chicken, diced
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, diced
  • 1/3 cup peanuts
  • 1 tbs cooking wine
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tsp la jiao
  • 8-10 dried red peppers, chopped
  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppers
  • 3 tbs cooking oil


  1. First, chop all of the ingredients that need chopping; carrots, cucumber and chicken. You want all three of these to be about the same size. There will of course be some odd shaped pieces but chicken should look mostly like little cubes. Also cut the dried red peppers. I find it easiest to do this with scissors, ancient Chinese secret.
  2. Add the oil to the wok (or frying pan but preferably a wok) and turn the heat up high.
  3. Add the dried red peppers and the Sichuan peppers. Let them sizzle for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the chicken and start stirring it around. Let it cook for about three minutes. Stir the whole time. Cook until all of the chicken has turned white.
  5. Add all of the wet ingredients; cooking wine, soy sauce, and la jiao sauce. Stir and let it cook for another minute.
  6. Add the carrots. Cook stirring for about one minute.
  7. Add the cucumber. Continue to stir cooking for one minute.
  8. Stir in the peanuts. Allow the dish to cook for another three to four minutes. Continue stirring the whole time.
  9. Remove from fire and serve with rice.

Kung Pao Chicken.

Gonbao Ji Ding; the finished product should look similar to this.
Gonbao Ji Ding; the finished product should look similar to this. | Source

Copyright Notice

© Copyright 2012. Wesley Meacham- This article is copyright protected and is the property of Wesley Meacham. All images in this article, unless otherwise stated, are the property of Wesley Meacham. Please do not copy this article in whole or in part without giving credit to the original author.


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    • Wesley Meacham profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesley Meacham 

      4 years ago from Wuhan, China

      Downtown LA Life.

      Hi. I'm not sure why you say this is for "non-Chinese." I've been living in Wuhan, China for the past five years. The original source of this recipe is actually my ex-girlfriend. She is Chinese. She was born in Yichang in Hubei province. This was her preferred recipe. I will grant you that there are several variations of the dish. Some are better than others. Your comment that this is a "Scary variation" is again puzzling. There is nothing that is strange or scary here. It's pretty straightforward.

    • profile image

      Downtown LA Life 

      4 years ago

      This is totally wrong. Any one who has been to China knows this recipe is for non-Chinese. Scary variation on a good solid Chinese dish.

    • Amanda Gee profile image

      Amanda Gee 

      6 years ago from Cameron, Missouri

      Looks delicious! :)

    • vespawoolf profile image


      6 years ago from Peru, South America

      I'm glad to have this "authentic" recipe, although I know that term is relative! We have quite a few Chinese immigrants in Peru, so all these products you mention are available here. I've noticed the dishes prepared in Peruvian Chinese restaurants reflect the local cuisine, similar to the Chinese food I've eaten in the U.S. I also enjoyed reading the history of Kung Pao. Voted up and shared!

    • Cherry Red profile image

      Cherry Red 

      6 years ago from London, England

      Wesley, this looks amazing. I love the history behind it too. Thank you.

    • Wesley Meacham profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesley Meacham 

      6 years ago from Wuhan, China

      Thank you anglnwu.

      It doesn't hurt that I have a bit of help. My partner in crime is Chinese. The recipe used here is one of about three. We tried all three and she and I both decided that this one was the best.

      We have another 15 or 16 recipes written down including yu xiang rou si, mapo doufu and a few others which I can't even remember the names for. Of these gong bao ji ding is the only one I've posted on here. If I remember straight the other recipes on here were mostly me playing around in the kitchen. I'm also working on putting together some recipes from back home with a Chinese style. Since I grew up in the south a lot of these are going to be southern dishes.

      Our goal is to compile about forty dishes; half Chinese and half fusion and publish them as a cookbook. Some of these might make it on to hubpages but it is hard to say.

      I enjoy cooking and I've always enjoyed Chinese food. Though after two years of living here I would kill for some tacos... I also enjoy experiementing, learning and trying new things.

    • anglnwu profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm impressed and I'm Chinese. I like that you mention we should always adjust taste to suit our own personal preference. I've always done that in my cooking and I love the freedom to experiment and play. Nice hub.

    • Cat R profile image

      Cat R 

      7 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

      Cool. Will look at it after work.

    • Wesley Meacham profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesley Meacham 

      7 years ago from Wuhan, China

      Cat R, I've written a bit on China already. Mostly on hubpages I've written about different locations in China and a couple of opinion hubs as well. With time there will be more. I'll see what I can do. Also, if you're interested you might take a look at my livejournal account, Everything there is about me in China from the beginning.

    • Cat R profile image

      Cat R 

      7 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

      How about some articles of what you see in China? And LOTS of pictures! It would be interesting to see your view of a country that is often viewed with different eyes by those that aren't even there and/or have never been there.

      And from what I heard it has a lot of beautiful history and nature to show.

    • Wesley Meacham profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesley Meacham 

      7 years ago from Wuhan, China

      Dr. Funom Makama, hi and thanks for commenting. I absolutely love sushi. It is one of my favorite things in the world. I've always loved fish and sushi is such a cool, interesting way to experience food. I love wasabi too. I've never tried to make sushi though.

      One day I'm going to have to buy one of those little bamboo sushi mats and learn how to make different kinds of sushi. That is very high on my list of things to do in life.

      I'm glad you stopped by and enjoyed reading. Thanks again for commenting.

    • Wesley Meacham profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesley Meacham 

      7 years ago from Wuhan, China

      Cat R, Thanks for commenting. I do love Asian food. It would be a bit hard for me at the moment if I didn't. I've been in China for almost two years and it looks like I'll be here for a third.

      They do put a lot of effort into the preparation. If you look at the ingredients arranged on the plate you'll notice that they're all cut into perfectly sized pieces. I'll admit that I did not do the chopping myself. A friend of mine did it for me. If I had cut the cucumber and carrots they would not have been that pretty.

      I enjoy spicy food, so gongbao ji ding is one of my favorite dishes. I can easily say that it was probably the first dish I learned to order in Chinese. If you order something in a restaurant in China you'll usually be asked if you want spice.

      The question will sound something like: "Ni yao la jiao?" (you want spicy sauce?) OR "Yao bu yao la jiao?" (Want/don't want spicy sauce?)

      I always answer with just the word "yao" which means want.

      To say that no you do not want spicy you can say; "Bu yao."

      You could also say; "zhong la." (middle spicy) or "xiao la" (small spice). The zh sounds like a J and "xiao" kind of sounds like "she owe."

      The next time you're in a Chinese restaurant try to say "Wo bu yao la jiao." (I don't want spicy sauce) and see how they respond. They may not understand you (especially since I haven't mentioned the tones) but if they do they'll probably act excited.

    • Cat R profile image

      Cat R 

      7 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

      I love Asian food in any way. Just not as spicy as some eat it. They put so much more effort into cooking!


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