Chinese food continues to become more and more popular in North America, with popular restaurants in small and large cities.
Packed with delicious, complex flavors, veggies, herbs, and spices, Chinese food makes a great addition to any weekly meal planning menu.
But with all the different dishes on the menu how are you supposed to decide on the best one for your taste buds?
Two of the most popular dishes are definitely Szechuan Chicken and Kung Pao Chicken, but how do you choose between them? Is one spicier than the other?
So, what’s the difference between Szechuan Chicken and Kung Pao Chicken? While technically Szechuan is a type of cuisine while Kung Pao Chicken is a dish, in Western countries Szechuan chicken is associated with a spicy dish packed with Szechuan peppers and dried red chilies. Kung Pao chicken is typically a milder dish made with orange juice, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and little to no chilies or Szechuan peppers.
Read on to discover the differences in ingredients, spiciness, and flavor between Szechuan Chicken and Kung Pao Chicken!
Szechuan Chicken vs Kung Pao Chicken
Although Both Szechuan Chicken and Kung pao chicken are both Chinese dishes, each has its own features that makes them different from one another.
To carefully distinguish the difference between Kung Pao Chicken and Szechuan Chicken you need to taste each one. While Kung Pao Chicken has a strong spicy and sweet flavour and nutty flavor too, Szechuan Chicken on the other hand also has a spicy but with a bold and stronger flavour.
Also known as Sichuan or Szechwan is a Chinese cuisine style. It originates from Sichuan Province in China. The meat used in Szechuan Cuisine are pork, beef and Chicken. Although some use rabbit meats. Often, yogurts are also used. The classic Szechuan dish is made using Szechuan Chilis.
Kung Pao is another classic dish in a Chinese Cuisine. It is also known as Gong Bao or Kung Po.
It is made with using stir-fried or deep fried chicken and spicy hot sauce. . The main ingredients are Chicken, vegetables, chili pepper and peanuts. Since peanuts are used, this type of dish has a strong nutty flavor.
Listed below are the differences and similarities between Kung Pao Chicken and Szechuan Chicken.
1 lb boneless beef, cut into small strips 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced into strips 2 tbsp frying oil (anything with a medium-high smoke point works fine) 3 cloves garlic, minced about 1″ of ginger, peeled and chopped finely about 10 dried red chilis (mostly for looks, can be safely skipped) 1/4 cup peanuts, roasted 1/2 ground Szechuan peppercorns (pre-ground is fine, but you can also grind these yourself) 3 spring onions, chopped finely Marinade ingredients: 1 tbsp soy sauce 2 tbsp sesame oil 1 tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry cooking sherry 1/2 tsp salt Sauce: 2 tbsp soy sauce 2 tsp vinegar 1 tsp Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing) or cooking sherry 1/2 tsp white sugar 1/8 tsp pepper
To thicken: A slurry of: 1 tbsp corn starch 2 tbsp water
For Chili Oil: 1/2 cup frying oil (again, high smoke point is best) 2 tbsp Szechuan peppercorns up to 2 tbsp red chili flakes (to taste)
To Make Chili Oil:
You can make the oil up to a week in advance, so we’ll start with it here. Simply put the ingredients (oil, chili flakes, and peppercorns) into a frying pan and heat it until it starts to smoke. Remove from heat, let it cool, and store. Some people split the oil in half and make one batch with peppercorns and one with chili flakes, but I think it’s a better idea to simply use fewer chili flakes and make one batch of oil that’s just as spicy as you like it.
Mix the marinade ingredients (rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt) in a large plastic freezer bag. Add meat and mix well. Let this sit in the fridge for at least ten minutes. Kung pao beef isn’t generally a dish you’re supposed to marinade overnight, but you won’t really hurt anything if you let the meat sit in a flavorful tenderizing solution for up to a day.
To Make Sauce:
Simply stir ingredients together in a bowl. If your sauce is too thin, you can add the cornstarch slurry in a bit, but it’s best to wait until you’re applying heat.
Heat a small amount of chili oil (or regular oil) in a frying pan, then add your beef. Brown over medium heat until the meat is almost cooked through. Remove the meat and place it in a bowl for later (I use the same bowl that has my sauce).
Add a bit more oil to your pan to keep things nice and loose. Toss in your bell pepper and stir-fry until it’s soft and slightly translucent. Put the cooked pepper in the same bowl as your meat.
Add a third shot of oil and fry your ginger, garlic, and dried chilis for about a minute. Things should get quite fragrant here.
Once your kitchen smells absolutely delicious, add the beef, peppers, and sauce to your frying pan. Stir everything together and saute for a minute or two until the beef is fully cooked. If you’d like to thicken your sauce, now is the time to add your cornstarch slurry.
When you’re content with the consistency of the sauce, add the ground Szechuan peppers, roasted peanuts, and green onion. Stir, remove from heat, and serve!
Which is spicier Szechuan or Kung Pao?
Kung pao chicken is mildly spicy, sweet and nutty. Meanwhile, Szechuan chicken is spicier and is not sweet or nutty. These two dishes are pretty similar. Therefore, many people confuse between the two dishes.
What’s better Kung Pao or Szechuan?
What’s the difference between Szechuan Hunan and Kung Pao?