Chicken with Peanuts, Kung Pao Gai Ding

There’s an old joke about Jews and Chinese food. A Chinese man is speaking to a Jewish man and says, “so if your culture is over 5000 years old and ours is over 4000 years old where did your people eat for a thousand years?”

Such is the devotion of Jewish people to Chinese food.

Back in the day, young Jewish couples who became engaged would eat Chinese food on a Saturday night date. Jewish families ate Chinese food out together on Sunday afternoon.

But even now, the connection between Jewish people and Chinese food is the stuff of humor. Like when Elena Kagan was being questioned before her appointment to the Supreme Court and when asked where she was on Christmas Day she said “You know, like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.” 

So on Chinese New Year (4710, celebration begins in the evening, January 22nd) it is not unthinkable that Jewish people might want to eat some Chinese food as a sort of celebration (any excuse really).

Here’s one of my favorite recipes:

Chicken with Peanuts


1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine, other rice wine or white wine

1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon sesame seed oil

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons water

the chicken:

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

4-6 dry red whole chili peppers

4 large scallions, chopped

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger

1/2 cup roasted peanuts (may be salted)

Mix the soy sauce, rice wine, vinegar, kosher salt and sesame seed oil in a small bowl and set aside.

Mix the 2 teaspoons cornstarch and 2 teaspoons water in a small bowl and set aside.

Cut the chicken into bite size pieces and place in a bowl. Add the 1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch and mix thoroughly to coat all the chicken pieces and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a wok or stirfry pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and stirfry for 2-3 minutes or until all the pieces are white. Dish out the chicken and set aside.

Heat the remaining tablespoon vegetable oil in the wok. Add the chili peppers and cook briefly until they turn dark. Add the scallion, ginger and chicken to the pan and stirfry briefly to distribute the ingredients evenly. Stir the sauce and pour it into the pan. Stirfry for about a minute. Add the peanuts and mix them in evenly. Stir the cornstarch mixture and pour it into the pan. Stirfry until the sauce has thickened. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings