I’ve lost the magic USB string for my camera. No matter – I did take some pictures of this recipe, and will put them up as soon as my magic string makes an appearance. In the meantime, here is a placeholder botanical print of a cashew nut borrowed from Wikipedia.
Chicken with cashew nuts pops up on Chinese restaurant and takeaway menus the world over, all with slightly different saucing and attitudes to things like batter and breading. Where I come from, we neither batter nor bread our chicken in this preparation, but if you can’t bear missing out on the missing cholesterol, feel free to bread/batter and deep-fry your marinaded chicken before you add it to the stir-fried sauce and vegetables.
The sauce here is made up from hoi sin with smaller amounts of chilli bean and black bean sauces – all from jars, and all from your local Chinese supermarket. If you don’t have access to these ingredients locally, try the excellent Wai Yee Hong, whom I’ve found to be superbly reliable and well-stocked over the last year or so. Unsalted cashews are no longer very hard to come by – most supermarkets will stock them in their whole foods section. It’s very important that you don’t use salted cashews here; all the above sauces, and the soy sauce in this recipe, are pretty salty, and salted cashews will be overpowering.
To serve four, you’ll need:
800g chicken breast, chopped (some Chinese people prefer dark meat, but breast is commoner in restaurants)
2 glasses Chinese rice wine
4 tablespoons light soy sauce
4 teaspoons cornflour
4 teaspoons sesame oil
150g unsalted cashews
4 fat cloves garlic
10 spring onions (scallions)
2 sweet peppers (I used one yellow and one orange)
2 teaspoons chilli bean sauce
2 teaspoons black bean sauce
2 tablespoons hoi sin sauce
2 birds eye chillies
Ground nut oil for stir-frying
Start by preparing all the ingredients for stir frying. Marinade the chicken pieces in 1 glass Chinese rice wine, 2 teaspoons cornflour, 2 tablespoons light soy and 2 teaspoons sesame oil for half an hour while you chop the garlic finely, dice the peppers and chop the spring onions on the diagonal into chunky pieces. In a hot frying pan without oil, toast the cashews for a few minutes, keeping them on the move with a spatula, until they are browning nicely but not burned.
Heat the ground nut oil in a wok until it begins to smoke. Stir fry the garlic for a few seconds, then tip in the chicken and its marinade, and stir fry until the chicken is half cooked through. Add the spring onions and peppers, and continue to stir fry until the chicken is cooked and the vegetables are softer. Add the hoi sin, chilli bean and black bean sauces, stir well and then add the remaining glass of rice wine. Simmer the chicken and vegetables in the sauce and add two teaspoons of cornflour made into a paste with a little cold water to thicken the sauce. Cook for another minute, stir through the cashew nuts and two teaspoons of sesame oil, and serve immediately. Totally delicious and – dare I say it – probably nicer than what’s on offer at your local take-out.