Cashew chicken. There are a handful of recipes you can find on almost any Chinese restaurant menu you can think of, yet most of them are very Americanized to say the least. But I spent a great deal of time in China, and yes, I’ve had cashew chicken there, and I can tell you that with a couple of changes in ingredients, you can have the “real” dish on your own menu, in a flash.
Here are the things you’ll want to have before you start the dish: Shao Xing cooking wine, dark (mushroom flavored) soy sauce, and Zhenjiang vinegar. If you have a local Chinese grocery available, these are things that are easy to find. If not, all of them can be found online. You might have to wait a few days, but trust me, it’s worth it. Generally, this would be one of several dishes at a Chinese banquet, but you can either serve with other things or simply serve it itself.
It will be darker, and have a few hints of flavor you might not otherwise expect, and yet it will be the same in most respects. The main thing is it will have nothing but actual Chinese ingredients in it, which is a good thing. How much different is it from Americanized cashew chicken? Well, a great deal of it has to do with how sophisticated your palate might be, but in general it’s richer and a lot more filling than the kind of thing you might find in any but the very best Chinese restaurants.
For a lot of reasons, I used a wok to make my version. You can use a large skillet, but like a lot of things in Chinese cooking, a decent wok does make a difference (though probably small) in the final recipe. If you’ve got one, use it. If not, don’t worry much about it.
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 14 oz.)
1/4 cup Shao Xing cooking wine
1/4 cup dark (mushroom flavored) soy sauce
1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp. cornstarch
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Zhenjiang vinegar
1/4 cup peanut oil
1/2 cup coarsely chopped green pepper
1/2 cup cashews
2 tablespoons sliced green onions (white and green parts only)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. Stir together cooking wine, dark soy sauce, cornstarch, honey, and vinegar, and 1/4 cup water in a small bowl.
Heat a wok over high heat for 2 minutes. Add peanut oil, and tilt skillet to coat sides; heat 2 minutes.
Add chicken, and stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes or until chicken turns white. Move chicken to perimeter of wok. Add green pepper and cashews; stir-fry 30 seconds, and move to perimeter of wok. Add onions, garlic, and ginger; stir-fry 1 minute, and move to perimeter of wok.
Add the wine mixture, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook 1 minute, stirring all ingredients into sauce.
Serve over rice.