This is not your take-out Chinese-American food – this is the real thing, friends and fellow cooks. Here I’ll share one of several recipes I learned when I recently took a cooking class in Yangshuo, China. I was seriously impressed by Chinese cuisine – fresh, varied, and with oh-so-much garlic! – and this recipe is a perfect example. I even successfully replicated it at home, and it was a hit with both my mom and husband. Surprisingly simple and packed with flavor, it is officially in my household’s dinner rotation.
Two things to note before we begin.
1) It’s common knowledge that you can smash a garlic clove with a knife before mincing, seriously speeding up the process. Did you know that you can also do this with ginger?!?! It blew my mind. Try it – it’s enormously satisfying.
2) All the recipes we made in my cooking class spent less than 10 minutes cooking – no stewing or simmering here! I think this is pretty common with Chinese dishes – traditionally people did not have access to unlimited fuel for cooking, so cooking times were kept short. This also makes dishes healthier – food retains more of its nutrients better this way.
Legit Cashew Chicken
Time: 30 minutes (10 minutes cooking time) Serves 4
- 2 T vegetable, peanut, or safflower oil
- 1 and 1/3 cup raw cashews
- 200 mgs chicken thigh cut into cubes
- 4 clove of garlic, minced
- 4 tsp ginger, minced
- 2 large carrots, cut into cubes
- 2-3 green vegetable stalks – we used the most delicious stalk of what I think was lettuce, actually, but broccoli stalk and/or celery will work
- Mild-hot chile peppers, to taste
- 2 tsp oyster sauce
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 C water
Heat a wok for a few minutes at med-high heat, then add the cashews. Reduce heat, and cook until toasted and fragrant. Remove cashews from oil and set aside. This step is really key, as it flavors the oil with a wonderful cashew taste that permeates the whole dish.
Add chicken, garlic, and ginger to wok, and cook until chicken is white. This takes maybe 4-5 minutes.
Add soy sauce and stir.
Add vegetables, chiles if using, salt, and pepper and cook 1 minute. (The vegetables don’t cook very long in this dish; if you want them to be more cooked, steam them a bit first)
Add water and oyster sauce; cook until most of water is evaporated, leaving a thick and flavorful sauce. Add cashews and serve with rice.
Yes, it really is that simple! You, too, can cook delicious Chinese food at home. Now put that Hunan Garden menu away.