Kung Pao pheasant is one of my absolute favorite ways to make a pheasant stir fry. It is exactly the same as the kung pao chicken you are familiar with, only made with pheasant breast.
Kung pao is one of my go-to dishes whenever I want to make Chinese food, and not just with white meat poultry — I also have a recipe for kung pao venison.
I think what I love about the dish is its combination of texture and flavor: Hot, fried chiles, silky meat, crunchy peanuts. What’s not to love?
I did some research about the place of pheasants in Chinese cuisine — the bird is from Manchuria, in northern China — and learned that, a long time ago, pheasant stir fry was a thing, and that kung pao was made with wild Chinese pheasants. Good reason to learn this recipe.
Too many internet recipes for kung pao chicken are heavily Americanized, and I never found a recipe I really liked until I read Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking.
Kung pao chicken is originally from Sichuan, and it is supposed to be loaded with chiles and that crazy spice, Sichuan peppercorns, which make your mouth a little numb. My recipe has both, but you can moderate the chiles to your liking and skip the Sichuan pepper if you want.
Pheasant stir fry, as with all stir fries, demands that you prep everything in advance, and that you have the wok or large pan set over high heat. If you can’t get really high heat, your kung pao pheasant will not be as good.
If you are looking for some more Asian recipes that work with pheasant, try my recipes for Thai pheasant curry, General Tso’s pheasant, spicy Sichuan ‘fish fragrant’ pheasant, or my rendition of Panda Express’ orange chicken, only made as orange pheasant.
Kung Pao Pheasant
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar or rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon potato starch or 1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons potato starch or 2 1/2 teaspoons corn starch
- 1 tablespoon water
- Skinless breasts from 2 pheasants
- 5 garlic cloves, sliced thin
- A 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 5 to 6 green onions, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 to 10 dried hot chiles (Sichuan, cayenne, etc)
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chicken fat, lard or peanut oil
- 3/4 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
- Whisk all the ingredients for the sauce together and set aside.
- Whisk together all the ingredients for the marinade in a medium bowl. Cut the pheasant breasts into small chunks of about 1/2 inch across and mix in with the marinade ingredients. Set aside for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, slice the garlic cloves into slivers, mince the ginger as fine as you can and cut the green onions into 1/2-inch pieces. Break the dried chiles into 1/2-inch pieces and shake out as many seeds as you can.
- Set a wok over high heat for 1 minute. Add the chicken fat, lard or peanut oil and heat this until you see the faintest wisp of smoke. Add the Sichuan peppercorns and the dried chiles and stir-fry 15 seconds.
- Add the pheasant and stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add the bell pepper, garlic, ginger and green onions and stir fry another 30 seconds.
- Stir the sauce well and pour it into the wok. Add the peanuts and toss to combine. Bring to a rapid boil and stir fry for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Serve immediately over white rice with a beer.