In America, cashew chicken is one of the most beloved dishes served in Chinese restaurants. Sadly it is often “Westernized,” with deep-fried pieces of chicken in a heavy gravy. A true Cantonese cashew chicken should be seasoned with ginger, stir-fried with fresh sugar snaps, carrots, and celery, all in a light sauce that barely clings to the chicken. I often buy unroasted cashews and dry stir-fry them in a dry skillet or wok over medium heat a few minutes, shaking the pan frequently until they are just light golden. For a richer tasting sauce, use dark soy sauce in place of regular soy sauce. The virtues of a “simple” stir-fry are demonstrated in this easy-to-make recipe.–Grace Young
LC Suit Yourself Note
In this subtly flavored classic, the slightest extra effort provides exponential payoff. Tracking down dark soy sauce will enrich the sauce and toasting the cashews lightly in a dry skillet will deepen their flavor. And for the love of all things good, don’t omit the step in which you marinate the chicken, as this flavors as well as tenderizes the meat. To glean more tips on all things wok-related, become a Grace Young groupie, visiting her at graceyoung.com and following her @stirfrygrace on Twitter.
Cashew Chicken Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 30 M
- 30 M
- Serves 2 to 3
- 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce (regular or dark)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup homemade chicken stock or canned chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil (use only oils with a high smoke point, such as grapeseed)
- 2 tablespoons minced ginger
- 1/2 cup sugar snap peas, strings removed, pods left whole
- 1/2 cup carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1/2 cup celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1/2 cup unsalted cashews (if using raw cashews, toast them in a dry skillet for a minute or two prior to tossing them into the stir-fry)
- 1. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, garlic, 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch, 1 teaspoon of the rice wine, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and sugar. Stir to combine.
- 2. In a small bowl combine the broth, the remaining 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoons rice wine, and 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch.
- 3. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or a 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water added vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the oil, tilting the wok to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the ginger and, using a metal spatula, stir-fry until the ginger is fragrant, about 10 seconds. Push the ginger to the sides of the wok, carefully add the chicken mixture, and spread it evenly in a single layer. Cook the chicken, undisturbed, for 1 minute. Then stir-fry until the chicken is lightly browned but not cooked through, about 1 minute.
- 4. Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon oil into the wok, add the sugar snaps, carrots, celery, and cashews, and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir-fry just until the sugar snaps are bright green, about 1 minute. Restir the broth mixture and swirl it into the wok, adding it along the sides rather than into the middle. Stir-fry until the chicken is just cooked through, about 1 minute. Serve immediately.
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Testers ChoiceTesters Choice
Jun 20, 2010
Wonderful and easy. This recipe only has a handful of ingredients, prep time is next to nothing, and the outcome is fabulous. I actually made it twice, once using the chicken thighs (per the recipe) and the other using chicken breast. Both versions were terrific. For variety, you can add ingredients to your liking; I personally would’ve wanted a little tofu. Either way, I think it’s a winner. It’s light and healthy, yet packed with flavor. Definitely a must-try!
Jun 20, 2010
A weeknight-winner for sure. This cashew chicken was simple and light, and the flavors of both the ginger and garlic come through. I used regular soy sauce, although for more punch next time, I’ll try it with the dark soy sauce that’s recommended in the headnote. It cooks up very fast, so make sure you have all of your ingredients ready to go, and that the rice is warm in the rice cooker when you start to stir-fry.
Jun 20, 2010
In its simplicity, this recipe is full of greatness. You can just tell you’re doing something good for your body and soul as you cook and eat it. I substituted vegetable stock for the chicken (I had run out of homemade chicken stock) and I used gluten-free soy sauce, as I must now eat gluten-free. These two changes account for subtle differences in the flavour profile, but nothing too dramatic. The recipe delivers what it intends to by creating a fast stir-fry with a light sauce. (It’s so quick, it’s almost embarrassing.) It makes me want to try other recipes in Young’s book.
Jun 20, 2010
I’ll admit that I get lazy at times with some recipes. I’ll chop vegetables after I’ve started cooking and measure out ingredients à la minute. But not with an unforgiving, high-heat stir-fry recipe. All of your prep work has to be done before anything goes into that scorching-hot metal pan—or else it’s burn, baby, burn. This recipe put some discipline back into my mise en place. It works as written, tastes great, and can be adapted to suit individual tastes. The flavors were well-balanced and the sauce silky and understated. The vegetables had a cooked but crunchy texture. I love ginger, and next time I’ll sneak more in for myself. That’s the beauty of this template recipe: Make it as specified, and the next time, you’ll know just what to change for your specific tastes. I used a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet and watched the author’s recommended water-droplet dance evaporate in a second. I had success following the timing precisely, and I let the sugar snap peas cook about two minutes to turn a bright green. I also had minor grease-splattering, but not much, because of the minimal oil required. To reduce cleanup, you can place sheets of aluminum foil on the stove top and the counter next to the pan.
Cashew Chicken Recipe © 2010 Grace Young. Photo © 2010 Steven Mark Needham. All rights reserved.