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Make it Low Carb by Joan Hedman

A few months ago, I asked readers to tell me what lunches they missed the most. Laurel L. had this to say:

The main thing is Kung Pao Chicken (with plenty of white rice!). It was savory and spicy hot with the crunch of water chestnuts and peanuts on top. And what went with it? Eggrolls! Yum! Really miss Chinese food.

Well, I can't help you with the eggrolls, and of course the white rice is problematical, but Kung Pao Chicken is definitely do-able on a low carb diet.

Now, you may be asking yourself, what's the point of Kung Pao if I can't use rice to mop up the sauce? To this I reply, don't sell the ever-versatile cauliflower short. But you can find recipes for steamed cauliflower and cauli-rice in any number of places; I'm here to talk about Kung Pao.

This recipe is inspired by the version served by one of my favorite restaurants, back in my child-free days. Their "nouveau" Kung Pao was loaded with vegetables in a spicy sauce, topped off with the traditional peanuts. I made it often in those days, but since my kids don't "do" spicy, it has been out of rotation at home for a while. I was happy to resurrect it and see whether or not it was still suitable.

With a few tweaks — substituting xanthan gum for cornstarch in the sauce — it works wonderfully. This is another recipe with an ingredient list that looks long but really goes together pretty quickly — just make sure you've done all your chopping before you start cooking, and you'll be happy with the results.

A note about water chestnuts: the USDA nutrition database says that a half-cup of canned sliced water chestnuts has 9 grams of carbs, with 2 grams of fiber. Check the labels carefully, though, as many canned water chestnuts have added sugars that dramatically increase the carb count. If you'd like to add some to this recipe, 1/2 cup would be a good amount, and would add just less than 2 grams of carbs to each serving.

Green & Crunchy Kung Pao Chicken
4 Servings


  • 3 chicken breast halves with tenders
  • 4 T soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
    Kung Pao Chicken
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 large green pepper
  • 1/2 C chicken broth
  • 1/4 C white wine
  • 1 tsp cider or unsweetened rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 packet Splenda
For the pan:
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small yellow onion
  • 2 T vegetable oil
Finishing touch:
  • 1/3 C unsalted roasted peanuts

Cut the chicken into 3/4-inch cubes, and place in a shallow bowl. Add the soy sauce and then sprinkle the xanthan gum over everything. Stir well, then set aside until everything else is ready to go.

Dice the zucchini and the green pepper into 1/2-inch pieces. If you like crunchy zucchini and peppers, you don't need to do anything else with them at this point. I prefer these particular vegetables cooked until just soft, not falling apart; I find it improves the flavor, and it allows the zucchini especially to absorb the flavorful sauce. If you like less-crunchy vegetables, steam them separately in the microwave until they are just tender, about 6 minutes for each vegetable. Set the veggies aside.

In a small glass measuring cup, combine the chicken broth, white wine, vinegar, sesame oil, and Splenda.

Mince the garlic and grate the ginger into a small bowl. Dice the onion into 1/2-inch pieces.

In a large frying pan or wok, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat and add the onion. Use a fork or spatula to break up the layers of the onion, and cook until it's as crispy or soft as you like. Give it at least 2 minutes to soften a bit, but if you like crunchy onions, there's no reason to cook it longer. We like soft onions around here, so I cook them almost to the point of carmelization, about 5 or 6 minutes.

When the onions are cooked to your liking, add the ginger and garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the red pepper flakes and cook about 30 seconds longer.

Raise the heat to high. Scrape the chicken mixture into the pan and separate the pieces. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, constantly stirring so the chicken does not stick to the pan.

Add the zucchini and green peppers, and stir to distribute throughout. Give the sauce mixture a quick stir before pouring it into the pan. Bring to a simmer and stir for 2 or 3 minutes, letting the sauce come together and thicken.

If the sauce is not as thick as you would like, you can sprinkle another 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum over the pan and mix until the mixture thickens. Just before serving, stir in the peanuts.

For a more traditional presentation, serve over steamed shredded cauliflower.

265 calories; 23 g fat; 9 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 26 g protein.

I love exploring flavors and textures from other cultures, and adapting them for my American family. What inspires you in the kitchen? Drop me a line and help me keep my creative juices flowing!

Copyright © August 2006  Joan Hedman and Low Carb Luxury



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