Kung pao venison. Yeah, I know it’s not traditional, but it is really damn good.
Every deer hunter — really every hunter — should learn the Chinese stir frying technique. Usually it’s a marinade, a stir fry typically with fresh ginger, garlic and chiles, and a nice sauce often thickened with a little potato or corn starch.
It all comes together very quickly once you have it down pat, and, because meats in most Chinese dishes are interchangeable, you can remember the structure of a dish like kung pao and put really anything in there.
This is a real-deal kung pao recipe, cobbled together from several excellent Chinese cookbooks, notably Kian Lam Kho’s Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking. His recipe uses chicken, which is traditional, but venison works great. If you want to make kung pao chicken with pheasant or other upland game birds, use this recipe.
You need to use lean meat here, totally free of silverskin or gristle. Backstrap (loin) is best, but any piece of meat that you can cut into little cubes will work, so a hind leg roast or solid piece of meat from the front shoulder is a good alternative.
This isn’t typical cheapy Chinese kung pao, which is often sweet and goopy. If you want it sweeter, add more sugar to the sauce, and if you want it saucier, add a little more stock and dry sherry.
Some final words on making this recipe successfully: Your pan must be hot and not overcrowded. You want your highest setting on your hottest burner here. And do not double this recipe for a crowed! If you need to feed lots of people, do this entire recipe in batches.
So set up a batch, cook it, serve it, and do another. Since it takes all of about 6 minutes to cook once everything ready to go, you can bang out batches quickly for parties or larger gatherings.
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar or malt vinegar
- 1 teaspoon potato or corn starch
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons corn or potato starch
- 1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
- 1 pound lean venison, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
- 2/3 cup peanut or vegetable oil
- 2 to 10 dried hot chiles Sichuan, cayenne, etc
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
- A 2-inch piece of ginger, about 2 tablespoons, peeled and minced
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
- 5 or 6 green onions, chopped
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, ground (optional)
- 3/4 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
- Mix all the ingredients for the sauce together and set aside. Whisk together all the ingredients for the marinade in another bowl. Mix the venison pieces into the marinade with your hands, making sure you get each piece coated. Set aside while you chop all the vegetables. Break the dried chiles into 1/2-inch pieces and shake out as many seeds as you can. Discard the seeds.
- Set a wok over high heat on your biggest burner and pour in the oil. heat the oil to 350°F, or until a single drop of water sizzles sharply on contact. Add half the venison and fry 1 minute, moving around the pieces so they don't stick. Remove with a slotted spoon or, even better, a Chinese spider strainer, and set aside to drain excess oil. Repeat with the other half of the venison. Pour off all but about 3 tablespoons of oil.
- Add the dried chiles and stir-fry 45 seconds. Add the garlic, ginger and sliced red bell pepper and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add the venison back to the wok and stir fry for 1 more minute.
- Pour in the sauce -- make sure to stir it before you do, as the starch will have settled on the bottom of the bowl -- and mix into the other ingredients. Add the peanuts now and stir-fry everything for 30 seconds.
- Turn off the heat, mix in the chopped green onions and serve immediately over white rice with a beer.