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Spicy Cashew Nut Chicken

Something I often crave is my favourite quick and easy stir fry, and Chinese restaurant menu staple dish, Spicy Cashew Nut Chicken. This much-loved dish is available in virtually any restaurant, but I find when you make it at home it is lighter and fresher than any you will get while dining out. Best of all, this is a dish that really comes together in minutes, so if you cut your meat and vegetables while the rice is cooking, you’ll have the meal on the table in under 30 minutes.

Cashew Chicken on a serving platter with peppers, onions, cashews and rice. With basil and coriander.

When I am away from Sydney, among the many things I miss; my lovely friends, the sparkling jewel of a harbour, the jacarandas in full bloom, and the buzz of the big city, I really miss the easy access to fresh, vibrant Asian cuisine.

Australians take food incredibly seriously, and everybody knows exactly where their favourite Bahn Mi Pork Roll is to be had, (clue: Marrickville!) or where the latest and greatest dumpling restaurant is. Here in Munich, though we undoubtedly have many, many lovely restaurants, I’ve struggled to find really great Chinese restaurants (hit me up with any recommendations!) so I much prefer to cook this style of food at home.

I have to admit, I am making absolutely no claim to authenticity with this recipe, this is how I like to eat it – loaded with fresh veg and coved with plenty of herbs. I love anything a little sweet and sour too, so I always add a splash of vinegar and a pinch of sugar to suit my tastes – this is one of those great dishes that you can really tweak for your tastebuds.

Chinese cooking wine or Shao Xing is worthwhile tracking down as it costs pennies and gives this dish a great flavour boost. Some supermarkets stock it and in any medium-sized town there is likely to be an Asian supermarket tucked away somewhere. If you really can’t find it, a dry sherry, very dry white wine, or just some chicken stock will also work.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can I make cashew chicken without a wok?

Yes! A large frying pan works perfectly well for this dish. If you are using a wok over a gas flame, you may be able to reduce the cooking times slightly as they get very hot.

There is so much happening at the same time in this dish, how should I prepare?

Because this meal comes together so quickly, it’s best to have your rice well on the go, chicken marinading and vegetables chopped before you even begin to heat the pan. As with all stir fry dishes the most time consuming part of the dish is chopping the vegetables.

Do I really need to use three colours of peppers in this dish?

I like to use a mixture of red, green and yellow capsicum because it looks bright and colourful, but also that’s conveniently how they are sold in the supermarkets here in Germany. Feel free to use whichever colours you like best.

I don’t like spice! Do I have to use chilli flakes in this recipe?

Not at all. If you don’t like spice, leave it out. If you like this extra spicy, either up the amount chilli flakes or add some sliced chilli while stir frying.

Why do you give cup measurements for the rice?

Rice is perhaps the only thing in the kitchen that I measure by cups, rather than weight. I find it works well and it was how I learnt to cook rice as a kid. I have, however, included both sets of measurements here.


Spicy Cashew Nut Chicken

Easy CASHEW CHICKEN Recipe

Cashew Chicken with bell peppers.

Cashew Chicken Stir Fry

Yield: Serves 2-4
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

My classic Cashew Chicken recipe is so easy to make and miles better than any takeaway. With juicy chicken thighs, colourful peppers and crunchy cashews, this family friendly recipe is a real crowd pleaser.

Ingredients

for the rice:

  • 225g (1 cup) basmati rice
  • 500 ml (2 cups) water
  • 2 tsp butter

for the marinade:

  • 1 Tbsp cornflour
  • 60 ml (4 Tbsp) Chinese cooking wine, Shao Xing (or dry sherry)
  • 60 ml (4 Tbsp) oyster sauce
  • 45 ml (3 Tbsp) light soy sauce
  • 3 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp hot chilli flakes (optional)
  • 500g (1 lb.) boneless, skinless chicken thighs

for the stir-fry:

  • ½ a red bell pepper
  • ½ a green bell pepper
  • ½ a yellow bell pepper
  • 1 small brown onion
  • 3 fat cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp neutral oil, for frying
  • 150g (1 cup) unsalted cashews

to serve:

  • small bunch of basil
  • small bunch of coriander

Instructions

  1. MARINATE CHICKEN: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together all ingredients for the marinade. Cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks, place it into the mixture and allow it to marinade for at least 10 minutes.
  2. COOK RICE: Stir rice, water and butter together in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil uncovered, stirring occasionally, then turn the heat right down as low as it can go, cover with a tightly fitting lid and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff the grains with a fork then cover tightly and keep warm until needed.
  3. PREPARE VEGETABLES: While the chicken is marinading, de-seed and remove any bitter white pith from the capsicums, and cut into bite-sized cubes. Peel and quarter the onion, then separate the layers. Peel and slice the garlic.
  4. COOK CHICKEN: Heat a large frying pan or wok over high heat, then add the oil, tilting the wok or pan until it is coated. Lift the chicken out of the marinade, giving it a gentle shake and fry, stirring, over high heat for 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to lift the chicken out of the pan or wok onto a plate.
  5. COOK VEGETABLES: Turn the heat down slightly and add the capsicum, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring for 3 minutes, then add the cashews and the chicken back to the pan.
  6. ADD SAUCE: Pour in the marinade and a little splash of water, then cook stirring for another 3 minutes until the mixture has thickened and coated the meat and vegetables, thinning with a little extra water if necessary.
  7. SERVE: Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately, scattered with torn basil and coriander with rice on the side.

Notes

- Some brands of oyster sauce, soy sauce and Shaoxing wine can be high in sodium. If you are looking to reduce your salt intake, consider using a low sodium soy sauce and sherry or dry white wine in place of the cooking wine.

- I like to use a mix of peppers because that's how they are commonly sold where I live. If you can only get red or green peppers, use those instead.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 704Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 155mgSodium: 1572mgCarbohydrates: 69gFiber: 3gSugar: 6gProtein: 41g

Nutrition information is calculated automatically and isn’t always accurate.

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Jay Wadams
Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author and food photographer. Jay is the author of two cookbooks: 'Tasty' (2017) and 'Simply Summer' (2019). Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

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