Kung Pao Chicken at the Jadeleand Restaurant in Ottawa
Kung Pao Chicken has its roots in Sichuan cookery, but it is virtually ubiquitous on Chinese restaurant menus these days, especially those which are heavily westernized. The Jadeland Restaurant in Ottawa’s Chinatown touts itself as serving both Cantonese and Szechuan (Sichuan) cuisines but their rendition of Kung Pao Chicken was so far removed from the classic form that it really didn’t deserve to use the name.
I have mentioned elsewhere, that Westernized will often call a dish ‘Kung Pao’ style simply by adding peanuts and a little hot sauce (and will generally with considerably more sugar than actual Chinese versions). Sometimes, these dishes still remain somewhat true to the classic form, but the Kung Pao Chicken at the Jadeland got too much wrong.
First, their dish used Cashews rather than peanuts. Now, this is not absolutely fatal, other restaurants do this, I do it myself sometimes, and I like the substitution sufficiently that I would be overly critical of a Kung Pao dish on this basis alone. Unfortunately, the Jadeland’s departure from the traditional roots went down hill from there.
Kung Pao Chicken is rendered in Chinese characters as 宮保雞丁, pronounced gōngbǎo jīdīng in Mandarin. The final character ‘Ding’ appears in the names of many dishes on Chinese Restaurant menus and simply means that a particular ingredient, or ingredients, is diced into ‘cubes’. In the Kung Pao Chicken at the Jadeland, the chicken appeared mostly in ragged chunks or small slices, and was lost in a melange of vegetables.
Now, it is understandable that restaurants use some ‘filler’ in dishes in order to maintain a decent profit margin, but here, we had carrot and bamboo shoot, peas, celery, baby corncob chunks and big pieces of green pepper. A little of each might have been acceptable, but the amounts here really were way too much.
As for the sauce and the chili heat, this is where Jadelend really fell down. There were no whole pieces of chili at all and no proper ‘scorched chilli’ taste, which *might* have saved this dish, possibly. Rather, the only chili present consisted only of very fine flecks in a mediocre sauce which had barely any heat at all. Even the westernized expedient of using a hot sauce might have improved this dish a little but, in the end, it was nothing more than a mediocre Chicken Chop Suey with Cashews added.