Big chunks of pastrami, tender potato and crispy celery are tossed with tons of chili peppers, garlic and Sichuan peppercorns. Kung Pao Pastrami is a new-age Chinese dish that is made with authentic spices and comforting American ingredients. Extra hot and addictive, you won’t say no to this if you’re into spicy food.
Since our last visit to Mission Chinese Food restaurant in New York, my husband and I couldn’t stop talking about the food there. If you have never heard of the place, it is a “new-age Chinese restaurant” where the chefs bring you an authentic Chinese dining experience with nontraditional ingredients used in Japan, Philippines, and Spain etc.
You’ll see very familiar dishes on the menu: ribs, wings, fried chicken, brisket, bacon, and ice cream. However, if you take a bite into the famous Chongqing chicken wings, the fierce and numbing spicy sensation brings you straight to China.
Famous food critic Angela Dimayuga called the food “New American food”. Meanwhile, the restaurant was listed as “New York’s hottest Sichuan restaurant” by CNN.
Is the food in Mission Chinese real-deal Chinese food or American food?
Well, the judgement is totally up to you!
Kung Pao Pastrami
The Kung Pao Pastrami from Mission Chinese is one of our favorites.
The flavor profile of the dish stays true to the authentic Sichuan food—spicy and numbing savory umami that is quite pungent. The ingredients lie to the American side—celery, pastrami, and potatoes. You won’t find any of these ingredients in a traditional Kung Pao dish. Yet, when I send a spoonful of pastrami with tender potatoes into my mouth, the flavor was addictive and the combo makes perfect sense!
Today I want to share this unique Chinese American dish with you. The recipe is slightly adapted from The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook, by the restaurant owner Danny Bowien and famous food writer Chris Ying. I’ve shortened the cooking process and replaced a few ingredients, so the dish is more practical to cook in your home kitchen.
According to the author, in an ideal world you should smoke your own pastrami or purchase great pastrami from a store. I do not have this luxury and used normal deli pastrami instead. The cooked meat did not taste as tender as the one we had in the restaurant, but the dish was an excellent one nonetheless.
Kung Pao Pastrami is quite easy to make compared to the classic Kung Pao Chicken, because you can skip the marinating and pre-cooking process. You can totally serve it by itself, although a bowl of steamed rice is a plus.
If you are looking for a quick and flavorful dish that is loaded with comforting smoked meat, potato, and veggies, look no further!
More Delicious Sichuan recipes
If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.
Kung Pao Pastrami (A Mission Chinese Recipe)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 small Russet potato , cut into 1/8-inch pieces
- 360 grams (12 ounces) deli pastrami , cut into 1-inch pieces (*Footnote 1)
- 3 celery stalks , sliced
- 4 green onions , sliced, green and white parts separated
- 1 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
- 12 dried mild chili peppers such as Bullet Head chili peppers
- 3 garlic cloves , minced
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chili flakes from Homemade Chili Oil (*Footnote 2)
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce (*Footnote 3)
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 1 cup bell peppers , sliced
- 1/2 cup peanuts , roasted
- Toasted sesame seeds for garnish (Optional)
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add potato and stir a few times to coat evenly with oil. Add 1/4 cup water and cover immediately. Steam for 1 minute, or until the potato just starts to get tender. Transfer to a plate.
- Add 1 tablespoon of oil into the same pan. Spread pastrami with minimum overlapping. Let cook without touching until the bottom side turns golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until golden brown, about 1 minute. Turn to medium heat if the pan gets too hot.
- Add the rest of the oil, celery, the white part of the green onion, Sichuan peppercorns, and chili peppers. Cook and stir for a minute, until the chili peppers turn dark brown, but not burned. Add the garlic and stir a few times.
- Add the cooked potato. Stir for a minute, or until the potatoes are cooked but still crunchy.
- Add the chili flakes/crisp, soy sauce and stock. Bring to a boil. Add back the pastrami, bell peppers, the green part of the green onion, and peanuts. Stir a few times to mix well. Transfer to a plate immediately.
- Garnish with sesame seeds and serve hot as main.
- The original cookbook said cut the pastrami to 1/2-inch cubes, so the pastrami won’t fall apart easily. I cannot get my pastrami sliced in thick pieces at my grocery store, hence the thinner slices.
- If you happen to have Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp (The Godmother Brand), use it instead of the chili flakes.
- You can use regular soy sauce to replace light soy sauce. For a gluten free dish, use tamari to replace light soy sauce.
Questions and Reviews
I just had kung pao chicken for dinner and now getting tempted to try your dish. It’s looks stunning gorgeous and I am going to give it a try.
Never heard of Kung Pao Pastrami, but I guess there is a first for everything. I am Asian and where I buy the pastrami costs over $20 a pound. I don’t think I will use expensive pastrami to make this dish. I prefer to stay with real authentic Chinese dishes.
why you give it one star if you have never tried it?
Delete this comment you jerk. You left a one-star on something you didn’t even try. No one cares what you prefer.
@omnivorescookbook you should delete this stupid comment, it’s dragging your rating down on Google Search.
This was amazing. I made my own pastrami for the recipe which was actually a simple process. The brisket was about 5$ a pound so it’s quite affordable and it was an overall enjoyable experience curing and cooking the pastrami. After a 4 day cure I smoked the meat for a few hours then finished it in the oven.
The flavor of this recipe was fantastic. Will make again soon. I’m going to have the leftovers for breakfast!
Made this one last night: EXCELLENT! I love spicy. Was going to skip the potatoes and have the rest over noodles but stuck to the original recipe. Actually found pastrami without nitrites/nitrates at a big box store and remembered Maggie’s pastrami recipe. We’ll definitely do this one again.
This is definitely my “Go To” site for Chinese dishes. I’m never let down. If you haven’t picked up a copy of Ms. Zhu’s e-book on sauces you’re missing out not to mention the numerous dishes on which to use the sauces.
Delicious and great rendition of the Mission Chinese spot.
I tried this out of pure curiosity and honestly didn’t expect to like it. I had enough other dishes that we didn’t have to eat it if it wasn’t very good. It was **most excellent**! And so far, the only low review is from someone who is offended by the idea and didn’t try it, which tells you how good it is. I bought a single 1″ thick slice of deli pastrami that is nothing special. Fabulous cooked this way! Better than every pastrami on rye I’ve ever eaten.