Kung Pao shrimp is one of the best Chinese takeaway dishes to make for an effortless meal, especially if you're a seafood lover. It takes less than 30 minutes and is super easy to prepare. Hence, it is perfect when you're too busy to prepare something complex yet craving something filling and savoury.
As Chinese cuisine lovers, it is one of our favourites. Who wouldn't love a palatable combo of sweet and spicy sauce, crisp veggies, and juicy crustaceans? Just the thought of it has our mouths watering!
Our fondness towards the dish motivated us to try several recipes and come up with the best one so far. After a few taste tests and research, we finally figured out the best Kung Pao shrimp recipe. And we can't stress enough how good we think it is.
Our recipe will show you how to make Kung Pao shrimp at home with no hassle. We assure you that you'll love our recipe because it is also healthy and customisable.
Whether you enjoy it on its own or with other dishes, it is better and more nutritious than takeouts. So, without further ado, let's get into it!
What is Kung Pao Shrimp?
Kung Pao shrimp is a seafood dish that typically consists of stir-fried shrimp and vegetables cooked in sweet and spicy sauces. 'Kung Pao' refers to Chinese dishes that are stir-fried and served with a spicy sauce.
The traditional Chinese dish is commonly served as an entree in Chinese restaurants. It may also be called ‘Gong Bao’ or ‘Kung Po’ at times too.
The authentic Kung Pao shrimp recipe also incorporates Szechuan pepper as a topping. The dish originated in southwest China and developed from the original Szechuan-style Kung Pao chicken. The famous Kung pao sauce was used only for the chicken dish but later developed into a flavour used in many other recipes.
This dish offers a harmonious combination of sweet, spicy, savoury, and nutty flavours, which makes it a popular Chinese takeout dish. It tastes so amazing that some Chinese restaurants call it 'Kungfu Shrimp'.
A serving of this Chinese dish usually contains about 450 calories. Being a flavourful and filling low-calorie dish is indeed one of its charms. Additionally, it is a healthy dish to swap your plain old salads with.
Our authentic Kung Pao shrimp recipe only uses natural and whole ingredients. It makes the dish low in carbs and packed with vitamins and minerals.
Difference between Kung Pao Shrimp and Szechuan Shrimp
Szechuan shrimp refers to the type of cuisine in Szechuan, whereas Kung Pao shrimp is a specific dish within this cuisine. For your better understanding, there is a province called Szechuan in southwestern China with a cuisine known as Szechuan.
On the other hand, Kung Pao is one of the classic dishes of Szechuan cuisine from the Szechuan province.
Now that you're aware of the nuances, another difference between the Kung pao version and its Szechuan counterpart is their spice level. Kung Pao shrimp is less spicy than the Szechuan variation as the latter has more heaty ingredients like pepper and garlic.
The Kung pao version is mildly spicy and sweet with slightly different ingredients, whereas the Schezuan alternative has bold and strong flavours.
Kung Pao Shrimp vs Hunan Shrimp
Similarly, there is a difference between the spice levels of Hunan and Kung pao shrimp. Unlike the sweet and savoury flavour of the latter, Hunan prawns are hot and spicy.
The Hunan version tends to be spicier due to the usage of fresh peppers and no added sweeteners. Other than that, the former has bold flavours from garlic, rice vinegar, soy sauce and ketchup.
Additionally, 'Hunan' also refers to a type of Chinese cuisine. A province in China known as Western Hunan has a particular cuisine called Hunan. However, Kung pao shrimp is a dish within Szechuan cuisine.
Kung Pao Shrimp Ingredients
To make this savoury seafood dish, you will need these ingredients:
- Cooking oil
- Bell Peppers
- Dried red chillies
- Roasted peanuts
- Szechuan peppercorn
- Dark soy sauce
- Light soy sauce
- Corn starch
- Sesame Oil
- Chinese rice vinegar
Peanuts are the highlight of this dish which makes it different from other Chinese takeout dishes. However, you may also use cashews in the absence of peanuts or sunflower seeds as a substitute for those with nut allergies. Also, feel free to include more vegetables like zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, and corn to add more flavour to the dish.
Szechuan peppercorns have a tingling effect which is common in Szechuan cuisine. It will create the authentic taste of Kung Pao shrimp. But if you can't find Schezuan peppercorns, you can replace them with ground white pepper.
Besides that, Chinese rice vinegar will add some tartness to the dish. If you do not have Chinese rice vinegar, you can use apple cider vinegar or Japanese rice vinegar as a substitute.
To make keto Kung Pao shrimp, you can substitute ingredients like sugar with other keto sweeteners such as Stevia. Other than that, you can substitute sesame oil with olive oil for the sauce.
In addition, you can replace cornstarch with tapioca starch. Lastly, you can also replace soy sauce with coconut aminos which are also gluten-free.
How to Make Kung Pao Shrimp at Home
When cooking the shrimp
- We recommend using fresh, peeled, and deveined shrimp when making this dish. This will help in improving the flavouring of the prawns. Place the deveined prawns under running water to wash thoroughly. Alternatively, you can also clean them in a container of water.
- To have crunchy seafood, place the prawns in a container of water. Then, adding a teaspoon of baking soda and two teaspoons of salt, let them soak for 10 minutes. This will change the texture of the prawn and make them more crunchy.
- To keep the seafood tender and juicy, it is also important not to overcook them. Otherwise, the prawns will become too chewy. To avoid this, you can stir-fry the prawns over a high flame for about 20 seconds before adding the sauce. Then, continue to stir fry them until the sauce thickens. You have to pay attention to the prawns as you cook them.
- Remember that this is a stir-fry recipe, meaning it comes together quickly. The key to perfecting this dish is to be quick and accurate. Due to that, we highly recommend prepping your ingredients beforehand.
Making the sauce
- Corn starch is the ingredient which helps in thickening the sauce. Since it is used in the marinating process, you will only need a small amount for the sauce. Despite that, you may add more cornstarch if you prefer a thicker Kung Pao shrimp sauce. Other than that, reducing the amount of water used can also thicken the consistency of the sauce.
- You can include Shaoxing wine, a type of Chinese rice wine, to accentuate the taste of the sauce. Otherwise, sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar would suffice.
- There is no exact ratio of the sauce ingredients. However, the key is to have a sweet, savoury, and acidic taste with a bit of heat from the chilli and peppercorns. Therefore, you can add the ingredients according to taste.
- The chilli peppers are usually cut into halves in making Kung Pao shrimp. However, you can use whole dried chilli peppers to reduce the spiciness. You can also remove the seeds by cutting and soaking them in water. Let them soften in the water before cooking.
- Some recipes include stir-frying crushed Szechuan peppercorns along with other ingredients. However, if you don't want to eat them, you can still incorporate the flavours by infusing them with cooking oil. Simply heat the peppercorns in the oil for 1-2 minutes and remove them.
Keto kung pao shrimp
To make keto Kung Pao shrimp, substitute soy sauce with coconut aminos and replace cornstarch with tapioca starch.
Kung Pao Shrimp Recipe
- 300 g shrimp (medium sized, deveined)
- ¼ onion (sliced)
- ½ bell peppers (chopped)
- 5 regular-sized dried chillies
- 2 tbsps cooking oil
- 1 inch ginger
- ¼ cup roasted peanuts
- 3 stalks scallions (chopped)
Kung Pao sauce ingredients
- 2 tbsps dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsps light soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- 4 tbsps water
- ½ teaspoon Chinese rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 2-3 dashes ground white pepper
- Sesame seeds (optional)
- Mix the Kung Pao sauce ingredients in a bowl and set it aside.
- Add cooking oil to a wok and heat it until the oil becomes very hot. Then, add ginger and stir a few times quickly. Next, add the dried red chillies, onion and bell peppers and stir fry until the spicy aroma comes out.
- Then, add in the shrimp and roasted peanuts. Stir fry them quickly for 20 seconds. Add in the Kung Pao sauce once the shrimp are almost cooked. Continue to stir until the sauce thickens, and add the chopped scallions.
- Remove the Kung pao shrimp from the heat. Place it on a plate and top it with sesame seeds. Serve hot, and enjoy.
- You may substitute Chinese rice vinegar with apple cider vinegar or Japanese rice wine.
- You can substitute five regular dried chillies with ten mini/small-sized dried chillies.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
What to serve with Kung Pao shrimp
Depending on your preference and taste, there are various ways to enjoy this tasty dish. You can enjoy it with your preferred type of rice or try out Kung Pao shrimp noodles. If you are looking for something more flavourful, here are some suggestions that would pair well with the dish:
- Salt and pepper tofu
- Chicken and sweetcorn soup
- Prawn crackers
- Sweet and sour chicken balls
- Hong Kong noodles
- Yangzhou fried rice
- Choi sum with ginger and garlic
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