22 April 2018

Sweet and spicy cashew chicken

I haven't been doing a lot of food and recipe posts lately. Circumstances, I guess. I still cook nearly every day, and I make mostly French but also American and Asian-style foods, depending on our tastes and moods.

Yesterday's lunch was a version of Kung Pao Chicken made with dry-roasted, unsalted cashew nuts instead of peanuts. The sauce is sweet and as spicy as you want to make it, using dried hot chili peppers — whole or crushed and de-seeded or not.

You can add vegetables like sliced carrots, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots to the mix. I put in one red and one green bell pepper, sliced into strips, along with a can of "baby corn" for texture and flavor.

Sweet and Spicy Cashew Chicken

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 Tbsp. peanut oil
3 slices fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 small onion or 1 large shallot, peeled and sliced
 2 bell peppers, de-seeded and sliced
1 small can "baby" ears of sweet corn
¾ cup dry-roasted cashews
6 dried red chilies

For the marinade
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
1 Tbsp. rice wine, hon mirin, or dry white wine
1 Tbsp. hoisin sauce or sweet, dark soy sauce
1 tsp. peanut oil
For the cooking sauce
2 Tbsp. light soy sauce
1 tsp. sweet, dark soy sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. vinegar
2 Tbsp. water
2 tsp. cornstarch (Maïzéna)

Cut the chicken breast into bite-sized cubes and marinate for at least 30 minutes with the ingredients listed above. Separately, mix the cooking sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat up a wok with one tablespoon of oil and stir-fry the marinated chicken cubes until they are nearly done. Take them out of the wok and keep them warm. Add the remaining oil  to the wok. Stir-fry the onion, ginger, and garlic for a minute or two. Cut the dried chilies in half and, optionally, remove the seeds. (You can use a tablespoon of hot red pepper flakes instead of whole peppers.)

Add the bell pepper strips and continue stir-frying until everything is aromatic and the peppers are slightly tender. Then put the chicken cubes back into the wok along with the baby corn and cashews. Stir well and pour in the cooking sauce. Continue cooking and stirring until the sauce thickens slightly. Serve hot with steamed rice.

With the onset of warm, even hot weather — we had an impressive storm with lightning, thunder, and about 20 minutes of heavy rain last night — it's grilling season in Saint-Aignan now. Today we're going to have a lunch of blanched and then grilled local white asparagus, along with locally made pork sausages, parboiled and then browned on the grill as well. I'll be taking photos.


  1. The second photo is very artsy! Even though I'm not a fan of Chinese cuisine, I'd try it, mostly for the cachews and water chestnuts.

    1. You must have had a very bad experience with Chinese cuisine to dislike it so much. It's kind of like Americans who dismiss French cuisine because they had a bad experience with it, probably in the U.S. There is good in all national cuisines, don't you think?

    2. When at the Agency, some colleagues and I used to go from time to time to a Chinese restaurant across the mall. My recollection was the food was good, but to me it was too greasy. Frank and I used to go to a Chinese restaurant in Indio and their Beef Brocoli was delicious. With friends, in D.C. near Dupont Circle, I went several times to an upscale Chinese restaurant that didn't change much my overall impression. All in all, Chinese food is not my thing or I'll have to be really picky!

      OTOH, Japanese food is a quite different story :—)

    3. It's hard for me to think that Chinese cuisine is greasier than French cuisine. Pork is central to both. I learned to enjoy eating pork and beef fat in France. French frites, as in America, used to be cooked in beef fat. Pâtés are inherently greasy. And foie gras... Maybe it's the spices and flavors, combined with oil and fat, that put you off. Of course, never having been to China, it's hard to judge on the basis of American interpretations of Chinese cooking. It's like Americans' opinions of French cooking based on American experiences. It's just not authentic. I find it easy to give my opinion of American foods and cooking, but I hesitate to express negative opinions of the foods and cooking of other countries and cultures.

  2. Funny, I've never had a Chinese dish I didn't like. Yours looks wonderful. Our supermarket now carries frozen cooked rice which is a great convenience, especially in the case of brown rice which takes so long to cook. I have, however, found some quick-cooking brown jasmine rice from the Himalayas on Amazon which I'm going to try.
    Looking forward to photos tomorrow.

    1. I'm like you when it comes to Chinese cooking. Maybe living in San Francisco opened my eyes. About rice, I find I get the best results by soaking the raw rice in cold water for 30 minutes or (a lot) longer before I cook it. And then instead of putting twice the volume of water as rice in the pot, I put in about 1.25 times as much water as rice. Cook it on low temperature and, above all, don't salt the water. The rice comes out separate and steamed rather than boiled and mushy. It's taken me years to figure this out but it works pretty consistently for me now.

    2. Oh wow, I'm going to try cooking rice this way. Will make this stir fry tonight. I took Chinese cooking classes when we lived in Cincinnati. The whole sea bass was my favorite thing we made, but I never tried it chez moi.

  3. So, Walt must have had success finding asparagus at the market, eh? By now, you're probably grilling or eating. Enjoy!

    1. Yes, asparagus at the market but very expensive. Not so many years ago, we were paying 3.50 euros per kilo for local asparagus. Yesterday's was 9 euros (!) per kilo. It is good, however.


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