Happy Chinese New Year to my Chinese friends – and well really anyone celebrating the incoming Year of the Monkey! May it bring joy and may you find – keep – spread happiness and good health! Getting ready for the big day is a lot of work. You don’t have time to fuss over things so if you are looking for a great tasting dish to add to your repertoire, here’s a recipe for Cashew Chicken.

It works because the flavors come together well. Just a few ingredients really and you end up with a flavorful dish that can be had alone, with rice or noodles. Oyster sauce lends a sweet smoky taste to the dish. It is complemented by fish sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce and sugar – a great balance between salt, sweet and sour.

As for ingredients, I used boneless skinless chicken thighs and boneless skinless chicken breast. Why? Because that’s what I had in my fridge! You can use all thigh or all breast meat. I scoured about 3 different stores for the baby corn in the can – because no cashew chicken would be complete without it. Of course there are Thai chilies as well and I’ll tell you a neat technique to spice it up without too much effort. I call it flavoring oil and I have been doing it – mostly for Indian dishes, but thought it would lend itself nicely to this application – and it does!

To make the flavoring oil, once the chicken is cooked and the dish is complete, remove the contents of the wok to a serving platter cover to keep warm. Add some olive oil (yes I said olive oil) to the same wok – don’t wash it out. Chop about 4 large cloves of garlic and 4 – 6 Thai chilies. Add it to the hot oil and swirl it around. Don’t let the garlic or chilies burn or it will turn bitter. Turn off the fire, add the cashew chicken back to the wok and you have some nice heat to your dish. If you don’t want to do this, it is okay, you can still enjoy it with rice, noodles or on its own.

10-12 dried red chilies – most don’t tend to be hot, try a bit – seriously, how else are you going to know if it is hot or not, and adjust accordingly
4 cloves garlic, mashed
I cup cashews or peanuts – but it is called cashew chicken, not peanut chicken
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2” pieces – lightly salted/peppered
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2” pieces – lightly salted/peppered
225g mushrooms – I used cremini and cut them into quarters as they were bigger
1 can baby corn, drained and the corn cut in half
2 tbsp. oyster sauce
1 tsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tsp sugar

Mix together the oyster, hoisin, soy, and fish sauces together, add the sugar and stir well – taste it, add a tbsp. of water if it is too thick – it should be tasty – adjust the seasonings as necessary i.e. more sugar, or one of the sauces, maybe even a bit of salt –just make it tasty or your final product won’t be
Over medium high heat, add some oil to your wok and add the dried chilies, garlic and cashews
Be careful not to burn the cashews, you just want them to start turning color
Remove the contents with a slotted spoon and set aside
Add the chicken to the hot wok – you shouldn’t need to add more oil, but if you do, just another tablespoon or so should do it
Stir fry the chicken until it is cooked – I usually remove a piece and cut through it with a knife, if it is cooked, all the chicken should be cooked – remove the chicken from the pan and take the wok off the heat otherwise you could have some burning in the wok
Add another tablespoon of oil to the wok and throw in the mushrooms and sauté for 3 – 5 minutes
Add the oyster sauce mixture and stir fry the mushrooms in the sauce 10- 15 seconds
Add the cooked chicken to the mushrooms, stir, add the cashew mixture and quickly move it around
Add the corn and quickly move everything around again
Remove the contents from the wok, cover and set aside
Make the flavoring oil – really it makes a difference – using the chili, garlic, oil combo
Add the contents back to the wok and toss
Serve with rice, noodles or on its own
As always – enjoy!  

cashew chicken1a

cashew chicken2a