Kung Pao Chicken at the Keung Kee Restaurant in Montreal
The Keung Kee Cantonese Restaurant has been a fixture in Montreal’s Chinatown for many years now. It is a rather nondescript place, on the of an old building, and was a bit shabby and not especially clean on my visit. I will say that the majority of the clientele were Asian, which generally speaks well of the food, but the Kung Pao Chicken turned out to be a good example of this a dish best not ordered in establishments specializing in Cantonese, rather than Sichuanese cuisine.
First, I should say that it has actually been quite a long time since I made my visit to Keung Kee and things do change. I see from their current online menu that they have dropped quite a few traditional Chinese dishes and expanded their range to include quite a number of Westernized Chinese favorites. Surprisingly, though, as we shall see in a moment, they seem to have changed their Kung Pao Chicken to be more traditional rather than Western. This is a bit of an interesting turn of events because the dish they served me was neither.
As you can see in the first picture, the Kung Pao Chicken at Keung Kee consisted of a large number of vegetables. This serving was bulked out with green peppers, carrot and celery, as well as quite a lot of yellow onion. Now, as I have said before, restaurants have to turn a profit, and a little filler is acceptable, but the traditional Kung Pao Chicken is not heavy on vegetables and, indeed, rarely has much beyond a little sliced scallion.
The Chicken in the Keung Kee dish was really just shreds and scraps and not the proper diced chicken which is specified in the full Chinese name for the dish. There were a few specks of chili here and there, but no large pieces, and not really any noticeable chili heat either. There were peanuts, of course, but, somewhat surprisingly, they included their red-skins.
What especially surprised me here was the lack of sweetness. Most Westernized versions, and most versions cooked in Cantonese restaurants tend to be overly sweet, but even in the traditional Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken dish, a little sugar and vinegar is added for a slight sweet and sour flavor. Here, there was no sweetness at all and the dish ended up being very flat. Really, the Kung Pao Chicken at Keung Kee was just Vegetables with some Peanuts and a little Chicken, and not a real Kung Pao dish at all.