Properly made Kung Pao prawns taste nothing like the overly sweet, sticky version – often padded out with peppers – most of us have encountered as part of a takeaway. Whilst it’s true they do have a sweet element to them it is much more of a fine balance between that, sourness and of course, heat. The original recipe use peanuts rather than cashews but it’s hard to find raw peanuts at all let alone skinned ones, so raw cashews it is.
Start by soaking 100g of them in boiled water to plump them up. After about an hour, drain them and put them in a small tin and roast them for 8-10 minutes on gas mark 4. If you don’t have time or you’ve forgotten you can skip this, but it does add a nice depth to the taste of the nuts if you have.
100g cashews (as above)
1/2 kilo shell on king prawns, de-veined and shelled but tails left on.
1/4 dozen dried red chillis broken into pieces
1 inch ginger finely chopped
3 big spring onions, most of them thinly sliced but the very tops finely chopped for garnish
1 small fresh red chilli, finely chopped for garnish
4 tablespoons Toban Djan paste
4 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar (black Chinese vinegar)
4 tablespoons honey
Light soy sauce to taste
Oil for stir frying
Make the sauce; mix all the ingredients together apart from the soy sauce. Taste it and see how much soy you want to add to suit your palate. I find Toban Djan already quite salty so I go easy on the soy sauce.
Get a couple of tablespoons smoking hot and add the ginger, cook for 60 seconds and add the spring onion, the dried chilli and the prawns. Cook until the prawns just turn pink, keep them moving and turning all the while. Next throw in the nuts and the sauce and turn through once or twice to coat the prawns and nuts then tip into a dish and serve with the chopped fresh chilli and spring onion tops scattered over.