I wasn't intending on eating and talking about Kung Pao Chicken from Satay Kingdom next, as far as I understand its a Chinese dish, so it was a bit of a surprise to see it featured on the menu of one of Wellington's well known Malaysian eateries.
To be honest I usually avoid Satay Kingdom, sure its cheap and the service is fast but the food just isn't as good as other places about town. Its not as if we are short on options when it comes to Malaysian food either, here's a rough list just off the top of my head of places that i've been to: Kopi Tiam, Serai Heaven, KK Malaysian, Rasa, Satay Village, Satay Kingdom, Satay Heaven, Satay Kajang, Istana Malaysia, Oriental Kingdom, Pratha 2 Go, Roti Chenai, Kopi.
For whatever reason Satay Kingdom is where I found myself for dinner, and not really wanting noodles or curry or satay for that matter, I decided what the hell, i'd give their take on Kung Pao Chicken a whirl. But let it be said at the outset, that this isn't the Kung Pao chicken that i'm used to.
For starters, there are no peanuts! Oddly, as a bit of a peanut hater, this is the part that I missed the most. Then the chillis are different, there are loads of different vegetables, and the sauce isn't as dark either. However, just because something is different, it shouldn't mean that its inferior.
Unfortunately, in this case, it actually does mean its inferior. I think my own version of this dish surpasses it in many ways. The chillis used were hot yes, but didn't have the deep earthy flavour of the normal dried red ones other places use. The sauce was sweet, but it wasn't salty enough for me, I think it needed a lot more soy.
I'm in two minds about the vegetables, I guess they do help round out the dish and make it more of a meal - otherwise it would just have onions, peanuts & chicken. But I think they were the wrong type of veges. Carrots would work, as they have a natural sweetness to them, and perhaps bamboo shoots might be a good addition, but the green beans were just additional water & cauliflower with its delicate flavour often comes off on the bland side when competing with other more powerful tastes.
I did really like the crunchy barely cooked onions though. I'm thinking of adding a sweeter variety, perhaps red or white rather than the usual brown, as an optional garnish the next time I make my version. I still want a base of deep caramelised onions, but a textural difference might work well.
So, the overall verdict? Well, i've given it 2/5 mostly because this just isn't what I think of when I read Kung Pao Chicken. It wasn't executed poorly or anything, its just not quite right. But let's be honest, if you're going to a place called Satay Kingdom, there's a hint in the name as to what you ought to be ordering instead.