Kung Pao or Gong Bao prawn spaghetti is a delicious, saucy pasta dish where nothing goes to waste. A richly flavoured prawn stock sauce coats strands of spaghetti to create a dish that you want to eat again and again!
Kung pao chicken is a common restaurant dish popularised in America. Kung Pao of Gong bao is originally from Sichuan Province and it is a very simple sauce made up of soy sauces, Shaoxing cooking wine, sugar, ginger, garlic and Szechuan chilli pepper. It's usually made with chicken but I wanted to try a version with some prawns I just bought and that makes it an even faster to cook Chinese dish.
And this recipe allows nothing to go to waste - don't throw those prawn heads and shells away as they make a richly flavoured stock for this delectable sauce that spaghetti or noodles clings to beautifully! Usually with gong bao chicken there is less sauce but because I was pairing it with spaghetti I doubled the sauce because pasta loves sauce (as do I ;) ).
I always find it interesting how there are some Chinese dishes that make their way onto the menu in Western countries. For example in Australia, Chinese restaurants tend to have dishes like sweet and sour pork, honey king prawns, spring rolls and lemon chicken. But when I visited Peru, they loved fried rice and won ton soup while in America it's dishes like Egg Foo Yong and Kung Pao chicken and all are usually adapted to suit local tastes.
In Peru they call it Chifa cuisine and Peruvian families eat it regularly, some once a week. I lost count of how many Chinese restaurants I would drive past while I was there. It's often a Sunday special meal out and for the equivalent of $10AUD you could sit down in a restaurant and have fried rice, the main meal of your choice, a big bowl of won ton soup and a drink.
It wasn't a fancy place but that was never a concern and truthfully I've grown up with a healthy suspicion of fancy, empty Chinese places borne of my parents. I think they approach fancy Chinese restaurants with a "You've got to impress me" sort of attitude but these down to earth diners were happily patronised. And there was so much food that there was enough to take away too!
So tell me Dear Reader, do you save prawn heads to make stock? What is your favourite Chinese dish in your country?
Kung Pao Prawn Spaghetti
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
- 500g/1.1lbs prawns, in shell, heads on
- Oil for frying
- 4 green onions, white and green separated and sliced
- 5cm/2inches ginger, peeled and sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 2 red chillies, sliced
- 1/2 green capsicum, seeded and cut into small pieces
- 3 tablespoons roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn
- 250g/8.8ozs. spaghetti
- 250ml/8.8flozs. prawn stock from step 1 (you can also use chicken stock if you can't be bothered making your own stock)
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons cornflour/fine cornstarch
Step 1 - First remove the shells and heads from the prawns. Place the shells and heads in a saucepan with a cup of water and simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on. Strain the shells and cool the stock. Butterfly the prawns and remove the back vein.
Step 2 - It's best to have everything ready to cook before you cook the pasta. Place all the sauce ingredients together in a jug and then cut up the rest of the ingredients. Put the pasta onto boil in plenty of salted, boiling water for 7 minutes. While it is cooking and has 3 minutes or so to go, in a large saucepan, add some oil and stir fry the peppercorns onions, ginger, chilli and capsicum for a minute or two on high heat. Add the garlic and then add the prawns and stir fry until the prawns start to take on colour.
Step 3 - Turn the heat to low. Whisk the sauce ingredients just to make sure that the cornflour is mixed up (it tends to settle on the bottom) and then add to the pan and allow to thicken. The spaghetti should be ready to drain by then. Then add it to the saucepan and coat it in the sauce. Serve with the green onions and chopped, roasted peanuts.