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
Hands-On Time: 30 minutes | Total Time: 30 minutes | 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 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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Cashew Chicken Recipe © 2010 Grace Young. Photo © 2010 Steven Mark Needham. All rights reserved.