I've said it many times before on this blog and I'll say it once more: chicken thighs rock. All over Asia (and Europe, for that matter), this is considered a prime cut that has all sorts of uses, from stir-frying to deep-frying to braising. But for some reason most of America still treats it with suspicion.
Instead we revere chicken breast (not as flavorful IMHO), with is often double or triple the price of chicken thighs in grocery stores and contain only marginally less fat and fewer calories than thighs. But to each his own. The low demand just means that even at my relatively expensive neighborhood butcher shop, chicken thighs are always available and plenty affordable.
Today I had an urge to stir-fry dark meat chicken for lunch and decided to update this spicy cashew chicken recipe from last summer. Enjoy!
If you're a regular reader of the blog, you may have already tried to recreate some of your favorite takeout dishes from Chinese restaurants. Kung pao chicken and General Tso's chicken have been two of the most popular recipes on Appetite for China for the past few years. And recently I've added new favorites, such as Orange Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry, Shrimp Lo Mein, and Almond Chicken.
Cashew chicken is, of course, another favorite takeout dish. And once you try making it at home, I guarantee you'll find it better-tasting and even quicker than picking up the phone and ordering takeout. Marinating and cooking the chicken takes just 15 to 20 minutes, faster than delivery.
This version of cashew chicken is for the spicy food lovers out there. I like using about 2 teaspoons of chili sauce for 1 pound of chicken, but you can always increase the dosage to 3 teaspoons (or more!) if your tongue can handle it. The chicken is marinated in soy sauce and rice wine for flavor and corn starch to lock moisture in, resulting in a tender, juicy chicken. Which is more than you can usually hope for inside the white takeout cartons!
Spicy Cashew Chicken
Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 to 3 teaspoons chili sauce
- 1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- ½ cup salted roasted cashews, or substitute raw cashews
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- If you're using raw cashews, toast them in a dry skillet for 1 to 2 minutes, until they become golden on both sides and aromatic. Transfer to a plate to cool.
- Marinate the chicken: In a medium bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of the rice wine, and the cornstarch until the cornstarch is dissolved. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.
- Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce, remaining 1 tablespoon of the rice wine, the hoisin sauce, sesame oil, and chili sauce.
- Heat a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until just aromatic, about 20 to 30 seconds. Add the marinated chicken and stir-fry until no longer pink on the outside but not yet cooked through, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until the onion starts to become translucent, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Pour in the sauce and stir gently to coat the chicken. Allow the sauce to simmer for 1 to 2 minutes to thicken. Stir in the cashews. Transfer to a plate, top with sliced scallions, and serve.