26 September 2023

Kung Pao Chicken

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By Christine Salins.


Aussies are blessed to have had a long association with Chinese restaurants, from the family run diners in nearly every country town, to great dumpling places and numerous highly regarded Chinese restaurants in our capital cities.

Thankfully we appreciate what culinary treasures have been brought to our shores with the proliferation of Chinese food.

Not so in Paris, apparently. It was surprising to read in the preface to Bao Family (Murdoch Books, $45) that when Céline Chung opened her restaurant, Gros Bao, three years ago, someone (it’s not clear if it was Céline or someone else) felt the need to proclaim “No cats, no rats, just Chinese food!”.

Stereotypes about Chinese restaurants are apparently rife in Paris, and it has taken this determined, creative, talented, and energetic young woman to get Parisians hooked on bao and other Chinese delights.

Céline Chung, who was born in France to Chinese parents, did a university exchange to Shanghai as part of her business studies and it was there that she had her culinary awakening.

Travelling to other parts of the country like Yunnan, Sichuan, Beijing, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, she embraced the various cuisines, and she has brought all those experiences to the restaurants she was inspired to open in her home town of Paris.

First there was Petit Bao, which opened in January 2019 on rue Saint-Denis in the 2nd district, just a stone’s throw from where she grew up. Then there was Gros Bao, which opened in mid-2020 on the Canal Saint-Martin in the 10th District, a stylish canteen that fuses tradition and modernity, earning coverage even in Vogue.

There are now four Paris restaurants in the Bao family, and the cookbook. Bao Family celebrates bao and other Chinese classics – with a contemporary twist – through recipes spanning the eight culinary regions of China.

If you’ve enjoyed the work of Fuchsia Dunlop, Kwoklyn Wan and Ken Hom, among other writers and presenters on modern Chinese cooking, you’ll love this book. All the recipes are very accessible, many of them surprisingly easy.

Expect an explosion of flavour, not just in the fabulous bao buns but also in recipes for spring onion pancakes, spicy chicken salad, dim sum, Chinese spring rolls, hot- and-sour soup, sweet-and-sour fish, cumin beef, Cantonese fried rice, and other delights.

You’ll find step-by-step instructions for dishes such as Stir-fried vegetarian noodles, Pumpkin fries with salted egg, Har gow, Wonton soup, Steamed pork ribs with garlic and black beans, Salt-and-pepper chicken, and the Kung Pao Chicken classic featured here.

Every dish is imbued with the love that Céline and her family have for their homeland of Wenzhou, from their home in Paris.

Kung Pao Chicken

Serves 2

400g Chicken thighs

1 tablespoon Soy sauce

1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine

½ teaspoon Salt

1 teaspoon Sugar

2 tablespoons Water

1 teaspoon Chinkiang black vinegar

10g Chopped garlic

2 stems Spring onion

2 Dried whole chillies

1 tablespoon Cornflour + water mixture (1:3 cornflour to water ratio)

50g Peanuts

1 teaspoon Sichuan pepper oil

Oil for frying


1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine

1 teaspoon Rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons Light soy sauce

1 teaspoon Sugar

1 Egg white

½ teaspoon Cornflour

2 teaspoons Water

1 pinch Salt

1 pinch White pepper

2 teaspoons Vegetable oil

Cut the chicken into small approximately 1.5 cm pieces.

Mix the marinade ingredients in a container, then add the chicken thighs and leave to marinate for at least 20 minutes.

Fry the chicken pieces in oil at 120°C until they are just cooked.

Mix the soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, salt, sugar, water and black vinegar in a bowl. In a frying pan over medium to high heat, brown the chopped garlic, spring onion cut into chunks (set aside half) and the dried chillies cut into pieces in some oil. Add the chicken and stir for 30 seconds. Pour in the sauce, mix and then stir through the cornflour and water mixture until each piece of chicken is coated with sauce.

Add the peanuts, remaining spring onion and Sichuan pepper oil, stir one last time and serve immediately.

Recipe and image from: Bao Family by Céline Chung, photography by Grégoire Kalt. Published by Murdoch Books, RRP $45.00.

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