A few months back, my wife and I scoured Vancouver’s Chinatown in search of some key Chinese ingredients that our kitchen was missing. Though my focus was on finding Sezchuan peppercorns (or Chinese coriander, as it’s also called) and dried bird’s eye chilies, I came away with quite a few other very necessary items we’d been lacking (those being fish sauce, oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine and sesame oil). Shortly afterwards, I made the dish that had sent me on that mission in the first place: Szechuan Chicken. It was meh. I mean, it wasn’t bad, but let’s be honest here – I’m got high standards now, and some things just don’t cut it.
So it suffices to say that I didn’t end up posting the recipe, and I put my dreams of using most of my new and interesting Chinese ingredients on the backburner. Actually, I put them backburner-adjacent, as we keep our oils and sauces directly to the left of our stovetop. (Sorry, I’m a stickler for details.)
Fast forward to this weekend, and all of a sudden I have an odd craving for some Chinese Cashew Chicken. Not being the dish I usually get when ordering takeout, I think I needed it to make up for a lackluster “Combination #3” I recently picked up from a nearby restaurant. Too-sweet Sweet and Sour Pork and too-dry Breaded Almond Chicken – though admittedly delicious Chicken Chow Mein – left me wanting something different.
That something, obviously, is the recipe now posted below. Not being an expert at Chinese cuisine by anyone’s stretch of the imagination – and having never used two of the ingredients – I turned to what appeared to be a very reliable source: Nagi over at Recipe Tin Eats. I actually chose hers as the recipe to adapt based on two very simple reasons: her pictures looked the closest to what I remember from actual Chinese restaurants, and her ingredient list most closely resembled those listed in the Wikipedia entry for Cashew Chicken. In addition, she breaks rank and reveals the secret behind the super soft texture of the chicken that comes from restaurants – which takes the dish from “good home cooking” to “are you sure this isn’t take-out?”.
But enough about where my inspiration/guidance came from, let’s get to how you can make it yourself – which I highly encourage you to do, of course.
Chinese Cashew Chicken
- 1 1/2 lbs. chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 tbsp. baking soda
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup Shaoxing wine
- 1/4 cup oyster sauce
- 2 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
- 1 dash of ground black pepper
- 1 heaping tbsp. corn starch
- 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 tbsp. peanut oil
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2-4 carrots, thinly sliced
- 200-300 g. broccoli florets, larger pieces halved (approx. 1 medium crown’s worth)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 can water chestnuts, halved lengthwise
- 2/3 – 1 cup roasted/salted cashews
- In a bowl, combine together the chicken and baking soda, mixing the two together well. Let sit to for 15 minutes, then rinse with water thoroughly in a colander and lightly pat dry. Place in a medium-sized prep bowl.
- In a jar with a tight fitting lid (or alternately, a shakeable salad dressing container), combine together the soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and the dash of pepper. Shake well, then pour 1/4 cup of the mixture over the chicken and mix well. Let sit 20 minutes to marinate. Once this time is up, get started on the cooking process.
- Add the peanut oil to a large wok set over medium heat. Once the oil has warmed, start adding the ingredients, stirring often, in the following order (and for the following lengths of time):
- onions, 1 minute
- carrots, 1 minute
- broccoli, 2 minutes
- garlic, 1 minute
- chicken (in marinade), 4 minutes (until cooked on exterior, but still pink inside)
- Add the chicken broth and corn starch to the remaining jar of sauce, shake well, then pour into the wok. Turn up the element’s heat to medium-high until simmering, then return to medium heat and let simmer for 2 minutes.
- Add the water chestnuts and simmer an additional 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat, stir in cashews, then serve over cooked white rice.
Serves 5 as a main
As I’ve done in the past, this recipe has been shared over at Angie’s Fiesta Friday. Oftentimes I share my recipes there, then neglect follow the guidelines and link back to the site and the wonderful host/cohosts that we have each week. It’s a shame because then I miss opportunities to share with you the exciting things that are happening on their blogs, like Loretta’s very tempting Pecan Pie (which I think would go amazingly with some whiskey whipped cream) or The Fabulous Fare Sister’s indulgent Beef, Chorizo & Sweet Potato Quesadillas. Take a moment, check them out, and be inspired.