When comparing Kung Pao beef vs Szechuan beef, it is natural to feel a bit confused about what tastes better.
Both of these words are typically used when referring to dishes from China.
The Szechuan culinary tradition is one of the most well-known and influential in all of China’s diverse regional cuisines.
A staple of traditional Szechuan cooking is Kung Pao. So, how do you compare Szechuan beef vs Kung Pao beef?
The primary distinction between the two is that Kung Pao is essentially a dish, while Szechuan is a cooking technique, and they both have distinct flavors.
What Exactly is Szechuan?
Developed in the Sichuan province of China, Szechuan, or Szechwan, is a type of Chinese cuisine with a wide variety of dishes falling into this category.
Some of the most common ones are:
- Buddhist Vegetarian Style
The land in Sichuan province is ideal for growing a wide variety of crops, including mushrooms, vegetables, rice, and herbs.
Because of this, these foods are frequently employed in this cooking method.
Not only is beef more common than in other Chinese cuisines, but pork is the main protein source in this cooking style.
The usage of rabbit meat in Szechuan cooking is unique among Chinese cuisines.
Another unique aspect of Szechuan that sets it apart from other cuisines is the inclusion of yogurt in several dishes.
An Important Thing to Know about Szechuan
Traditional methods of food preservation in Szechuan include drying, pickling, and salting.
Braising, steaming, and stir-frying are common methods of cooking or preparing food.
Some examples of well-known dishes from Szechuan cuisine include Sichuan hotpot, double-cooked pork, Mapo tofu, tea-smoked duck, Dan dan noodles, and of course, Kung Pao chicken.
Fact: It is not possible to prepare the best Szechuan beef if you do not slice the meat into ¼-inch thick slices.
What Is Kung Pao?
As you may have gathered, Kung Pao is one of the most popular dishes that fall under the category of Szechuan cuisine.
Kung Pao chicken is basically a specialty from the Sichuan region of China.
The popularity of this dish spread to neighboring provinces, where it was adapted in various ways.
It is loved and liked for its fiery flavor, which it gets from the use of chopped garlic, minced ginger, and Sichuan peppercorn.
How Do You Compare Kung Pao Beef Vs Szechuan Beef?
Beef is included prominently in many Chinese recipes, including the well-known kung pao beef and Szechuan beef.
Both meals have beef, but the other ingredients and cooking techniques set them apart.
Method of Preparation
It is common practice to use flank steak while preparing Szechuan beef for a stir-fry.
Vegetables are stir-fried with beef marinated in a blend of rice wine, soy sauce, and spices.
When you talk about Kung Pao Beef, it is also a stir-fried beef meal but its ingredients may be different.
It typically includes jalapeño peppers, peanuts, and Sichuan peppercorns, among other things.
Fact: King Pao offers beef flavored with chili peppers and hot sauce and is much spicier as compared to Mongolian Beef.
In most cases, Kung Pao beef makes use of nuts, veggies, and Szechuan peppers.
You may also find chicken being part of this dish.
Szechuan cuisine on the other hand uses veggies, herbs, mushrooms, peppers, and yogurt. It may involve using pork, rabbit, or beef.
The Type of Beef
The recipe for Beef Szechuan often calls for beef tenderloin, but many experts advocate flank steak instead.
It is mainly because it has the ideal amount of marbling and is thus more flavorful as compared to tenderloin.
On the other hand, the kung pao beef features thinly sliced steak, onions, bell peppers, and roasted peanuts, served generously in a sweet and spicy sauce.
Chicken Kung Pao has a little heat, sweetness, and nutty flavor.
Szechuan chicken, on the other hand, is hotter and lacks any nutty or sweet undertones.
Many of the same ingredients go into each of these dishes, but still the cooking method lends a variation in taste.
Is Kung Pao Beef Popular than Kung Pao Chicken?
It depends on your personal preferences.
But, you have to keep in mind that chicken is a more common ingredient in Kung Pao dishes.
Kung Pao beef is not a typical Chinese meal, so it is understandable that many eateries do not offer it.
The issue of authenticity is only briefly relevant before a well-executed meal is placed in front of you alongside a heaping plate of white rice.
When you take that first bite, you immediately forget about everything else.
Enjoy bites of tender, crispy beef in a spicy, sour sauce with wok-roasted peanuts and flecks of flavorful, popcorn-toasted dried chilies.
Make sure rice is included.
What is Beef Szechuan Style?
You have undoubtedly seen or eaten Szechuan chicken, Szechuan beef, or Szechuan shrimp at your local Chinese restaurant.
Traditionally, in the United States, Szechuan Beef refers to very thin slices of beef perfectly marinated in Szechuan sauce and then stir-fried till tender and juicy.
The complicated, fiery sauce is the star of the dish.
What Does Szechuan Beef Taste Like?
Beef prepared Szechuan-style features an exciting interplay of flavors.
Szechuan peppercorns, brown sugar, ginger, soy sauce, garlic, and chile peppers are some of the basic ingredients.
These ingredients come together to make a complex, savory, spicy stir fry with a little sweetness.
The sweet flavor comes from the brown sugar and feels great with a tingling sensation from the Szechuan peppercorns.
Szechuan peppercorns set this beef stir fry apart with their unique and nuanced flavor characteristics.
Fact: It is possible to use sirloin, tenderloin, or ribeye steak for your Szechuan beef recipe if you are willing to spend more money.
How is Kung Pao Beef Made?
If you are interested in making Kung Pao beef at home, you need to follow some simple instructions.
Combine the Ingredients
Add the beef, oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine, cornstarch, and baking soda to a medium bowl.
Mix well to coat the beef properly and leave for at least an hour.
Prepare the Sauce
To make the sauce, you need to combine the stock or warm water with cornstarch, sugar, rice vinegar, light soy sauce, and hoisin sauce.
Also mix some dark soy sauce, Sichuan peppercorn powder and sesame oil.
Prepare the Peanuts
Add some peanuts with 1 tbsp of oil to a pan and cook over medium heat.
Do not stop stirring for 5 minutes until they are golden brown and aromatic.
Remove from the burner and continue stirring for one more minute to utilize the leftover heat.
Put it aside till it cools down.
If you do not want to roast your peanuts, you can get pre-roasted shelled peanuts for use.
Sear the Beef
Now add another couple of teaspoons of oil to the pan and put it over high heat.
Sear the beef for 1 1/2 minutes to turn it into a crispy delight.
Ensure that the wok or pan is extremely hot, as this prevents overcooking.
Once done, remove the beef.
Toast the Beef
Now, add the chilies and ginger over low heat and begin toasting.
Stir in the red pepper flakes and the scallion whites.
In a pan, heat the oil for 1-2 minutes, or until the aroma is released. Then, after 20 seconds of stirring, add the garlic.
Return the steak to the pan along with any accumulated juices, and crank up the heat to high.
Stir-fry for a minute and a half.
Add the Sauce
Reheat the sauce you made. Deglaze the pan by adding the sauce and mixing everything together.
Put the peanuts and scallion greens in once the sauce has thickened and is boiling.
If the sauce seems overly thick, you can thin it out with a small bit of water, but it should not be standing on its own.
Remove from heat, give one last stir, and serve along with a bowl of jasmine rice.
Fact: If spicy food is not your thing, you can go with a tbsp of Asian chili sauce and skip the crushed red pepper flakes in your Szechuan beef recipe.
Comparing Kung Pao beef vs Szechuan beef tells you that Kung Pao is basically a dish from Szechuan cuisine.
In many cases, people may use them interchangeably because ultimately, Kung Pao beef gives you the spicy taste that Szechuan cuisine is famous for.
But, you will certainly notice some differences in taste.
If you are a fan of the hot, spicy and fiery dish, without any sweet undertones, you should opt for Szechuan chicken.
But, Kung Pao beef is certainly something you must try.