Kung pao (gong bao) shrimp

This is my mom’s simple recipe for kung pao shrimp – shrimp defrosts faster than chicken and doesn’t need to marinate first.


  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Cooking oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetables, cut thin/small enough to cook quickly (eg diced green/red bell pepper or zucchini, thinly diagonal-sliced carrot or celery)
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 slice ginger, minced (optional)
  • 2 dried red chili peppers
  • 1/4 cup roasted peanuts, plus more for serving alongside
  • Cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Sauce ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (Kikkoman or dark)
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch


  1. Prepare vegetables and set aside.
  2. Cut shrimp into bite-sized pieces (for very large shrimp, it can help to cut the shrimp lengthwise in half first). Toss shrimp with cornstarch.
  3. Heat a wok or small skillet on high. Add low pool of cooking oil (like a low puddle, not just wet pavement) and add shrimp. Stir shrimp as it cooks quickly from gray to white-pink. Remove shrimp to bowl and set aside.
  4. Place pan back on heat. Add a bit more cooking oil to pan if necessary. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add other vegetables and cook briefly until crisp-tender. Remove vegetables to bowl.
  5. In a small bowl, mix soy sauce, vinegar and sugar.
  6. Place pan on heat again and add a bit more oil. Add garlic, ginger (optional) and hot pepper (break in half if you want a spicier dish); heat briefly until aromatic. Add sauce and stir. Add back vegetables and shrimp and stir to distribute sauce evenly. If sauce needs thickening, mix 1 teaspoon cornstarch with 2 teaspoons water and add to pan, stirring until sauce thickens.
  7. Remove to plate and top with roasted peanuts and cilantro, if using. Serve hot, with steamed rice.

Serves 2 hungry people or 4 as part of a multicourse meal.


  • If using chicken: marinate bite-size pieces in a tablespoon soy sauce and tablespoon sherry if you have it.
  • Good shrimp that tastes of the sea, not chemicals, is hard to find these days. US shrimp is best if you can find it. My mom recommends frozen shrimp from Mexico and Vietnam over Thailand.

Here’s a link back to the post and pictures.

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