I understand what his problem was. There's a lot of bad, greasy, Americanized slop out there masquerading as Chinese food. Some of the top offenders—beef with broccoli and egg foo young come to mind—aren't even based on actual Chinese dishes, while others, like Kung Pao chicken have been watered down beyond all recognition. Instead of the slightly-sweet, gloppy-sauced hodgepodge you get from your local take-out, picture wok-charred chicken in a sea of smoky red chilis, finished with a tongue-tingling dose of Szechuan peppercorn. If this doesn't convert you into a believer, nothing will.
Real Kung Pao Chicken (adapted from Land of Plenty by Fuchsia Dunlop)
2 boneless chicken breasts
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Equivalent amount of minced ginger
4-5 green onions, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon of canola or peanut oil
½ tablespoon cayenne or Indian red chili powder
1 tablespoon of Sichuan peppercorns
Large handful (at least 10) dried red chilis (I used de Arbol)
Large handful of roasted unsalted peanuts
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine
1½ teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon black Chinese vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon chicken stock or water
1. Cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks. Mix all the marinade ingredients together, making sure the corn starch is completely dissolved. Then marinate the chicken for about 15 minutes.
2. With a pair of kitchen scissors, snip the chilis in half. Place these, along with all of your other ingredients (garlic, green onions, ginger, chili powder, peppercorns, peanuts) near the wok.
3. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl, mix well, and taste. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
4. Turn on your overhead vent. Heat up a tablespoon of oil in your wok over high heat and wait for it to get fairly hot. Add the chilis, cayenne, and Szechuan peppercorn and stir until they become fragrant and darken slightly (about 2 minutes).
5. Add the chicken pieces to the wok and stir them around, making sure you maintain a high heat. Break the pieces up, then add the ginger and garlic and stir fry for a few minutes until the chicken is nearly cooked through. Add the green onions and stir for another 30 seconds.
6. Give the bowl of sauce a final stir, then add it to the hot wok. Mix well so that all the ingredients are coated. Add the peanuts, give another stir, and serve, piping hot.