Kung Pao Chicken at Three Kings

Kung Pao Chicken at the Three Kings Restaurant in Ottawa

Kung Pao Chicken at the Three Kings Restaurant in Ottawa

Sometimes, when I visit Chinese restaurants, I forego my usual practice of selecting a wide range of Dim Sum, or appetizer dishes, and choose one or two of the main dish selections. I especially like choosing Kung Pao Chicken so I can compare and contrast it with versions elsewhere. The Three Kings Restaurant in Ottawa, now closed, did a pretty decent job but, was pretty far removed from the Chinese classic.

Now, for a comparison of the dish you see pictured above with other restaurant versions, you may wish to look at the very decent Kung Pao Chicken at Juxiangyuan with the very poor Kung Pao Chicken at May’s Garden. The Three Kings Restaurant version, in my pinion, fell somewhere between the two.

At the Three kings, this dish appeared on the menu in English as ‘Kung Paw Chicken’, which is a bit of an idiosyncratic spelling. It was also listed in Chinese characters as 宫保鸡丁, which literally translates as ‘Palace Guard Chicken Cubes’ and is the classic name for the dish. In this case, though, the knife-work on the chicken was a little haphazard and, while there were cubes (丁), there were also a lot of ragged strips as well.

Like many restaurants, and especially those which serve Cantonese, or very Westernized Chinese cuisine, there were a lot of vegetables added for bulk. Indeed, far too many, for my taste. There were chunks of celery, carrot, and onion, baby corncob pieces and canned water chestnut slices.

There was also green and red pepper added along with sliced button mushrooms, but on that note, I will say that the mushrooms (which I have never seen used in this dish before) actually complemented it very nicely here.

Cashews replaced peanuts, here, as happens quite frequently, but there were no whole chillies visible. I did see a few flecks of ground chilli in the sauce and the dish was fairly hot but it lacked the traditional scorched chilli taste. It was also not sweet at all, and while Westernized versions are often oversweet, even the Chinese classic is supposed to be slightly sweet and sour. This wasn’t a fatal flaw, but, in all respects, the Kung Pao Chicken at Three Kings was of middling quality at best.

Comments, questions or suggestions most welcome!