What Is Kung Pao Style?

Kung pao style is the incorporation of spicy peppers and peanuts into basic Chinese cuisine. It is native to the Sichuan province of China and is known there as "gongbao jiding." Sichuan cuisine is known throughout the world for its intense heat and spice.

Unlike many styles of Chinese cooking known throughout the United States, kung pao is actually native to China. Rumor has it that it is named after a famous government official named Ding Baozhen who loved the spice in this style. The most well-known kung pao dish outside of China is kung pao chicken, which is seared chicken pieces tossed in a sauce made from spicy peppers, peanuts and occasionally a mixture of vegetables. In the United States, it is also frequently served with rice.

Although American kung pao dishes are considered spicy for the American palate, kung pao cooking in China is considerably spicier. Chefs in China use a more intense type of pepper than Americans and also add a variety of flowering berry that is often erroneously referred to as a peppercorn. According to About.com, in addition to the United States and China, kung pao dishes are popular throughout the world. NPR claims that the spicy combination of peppers and berries used in kung pao cooking is known in China as "ma," which means "numb."