Let's just get something out of the way right at the top. This is not an authentic kung pao recipe. If you are looking for an authentic kung pao recipe, just move along.
If, however, you are looking for a crazy delicious weeknight-friendly recipe for stir-fried pork that tastes very much like really good kung pao. And if you are looking for a quick and easy dinner your kids will love as they try to get back into their school routines. And if you really like recipes you can toss in to marinate in the morning and have on the table within 20 minutes of getting home. This is the kung pao you were looking for.
This recipe makes a tangy-mildly spicy sauce that begs for carbs to sop it up. I call for udon noodles, which boil up tender in just minutes, then can go straight from the water into the skillet of pork. But if you'd rather have rice, just skip that step. Cook rice as you see fit, mound it onto serving plates, then spoon the pork and sauce over it.
The peanuts add a delicious crunch to this recipe, but you could substitute cashews, or leave them out entirely. The scallions add a fresh, oniony contrast to the savory-spicy sauce. If you think the kids will object, just skip them. But my green vegetable-phobic 9-year-old son wasn't bothered by them. He actually requested thirds of this dinner.
This recipe is easily prepped ahead of time either the night before or morning of. Assemble the pork and marinade in one bowl, and the sauce in another. Refrigerate both, then proceed with the recipe when ready to serve. The noodles will cook up in just minutes.
Start to finish: 20 minutes (plus marinating)
For the marinade:
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice or cider vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch chunks
For the sauce:
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice or cider vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
Hot sauce, to taste
8-ounce package udon noodles
1/2 cup roasted shelled peanuts
6 scallions, chopped
To prepare the marinade, in a large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil. Add the pork, stirring to coat well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.
In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the water, soy sauce, both vinegars, the sugar, ginger, sesame oil, cornstarch, red pepper flakes, garlic and hot sauce. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.
When ready to cook, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until tender, according to package directions.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add the marinated pork, including any liquid in the bowl. Cook until the pork is nearly cooked through, about 10 minutes. As soon as the noodles are cooked, drain them and add them to the pork, tossing well. Add the sauce, toss to coat well. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Stir in the peanuts and scallions.
Nutrition information per serving: 600 calories; 220 calories from fat (37 percent of total calories); 25 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 90 mg cholesterol; 54 g carbohydrate; 5 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 45 g protein; 690 mg sodium.