What Is Kung Bo Chicken?

kung-bo-chicken Credit: snowpea&bokchoi/CC-BY-2.0

Kung bo chicken is a version of the more common kung pao chicken. Gung bo gai ding and kung po are two other names for versions of the same dish. Kung bo chicken is flavored with chili peppers, peppercorns and sesame oil.

Kung bo chicken is a spicy stir-fry dish that includes peanuts and vegetables, and its origin lies in the Sichuan Province in southwestern China. Traditional gung bo gai ding includes Sichuan peppercorns for flavoring. Kung pao chicken is a westernized version of the dish, and it's often less spicy.

The traditional Chinese dish starts with diced chicken marinated in spices. Sichuan peppercorns and chili peppers are flash-fried in a wok to add flavor to the sesame oil. The chicken is stir-fried with vegetables, and peanuts are added near the end of cooking.

Kung pao starts with the nuts, either cashews or peanuts. They are fried in the hot oil of the wok until golden. Chicken and vegetables are added on top of them. The westernized version of this dish is commonly stir-fried with orange juice, ginger, garlic and cornstarch.

Westernized kung pao became distinct from the traditional Sichuan version because of the peppercorns. Sichuan peppercorns could not be imported to the United States from China from 1968 to 1995 because it was thought they carried citrus canker, which harms citrus trees. Because these were not available, other flavorings, such as ginger, black pepper and garlic, took their place.