Last week, I made Cashew Chicken following a recipe by Martha Stewart Living (Everyday Food: Great Food Fast). It was ok. Just ok. I made a HUGE mistake and used seasoned rice vinegar instead of regular rice vinegar. This made the dish way too salty. Lesson learned! I made the recipe again and it was MUCH better with the correct vinegar. I still wasn't satisfied. The beauty of Asian food is that it is a perfect balance between salty, spicy, sweet, sour and umami. I set out to tweak the recipe to make it more balanced.
I will post the recipes and photos for both recipes, but let's start with the 'tweaked' one. I took lots of photos of the process and its always good to get the process down first. Then you can tweak it the way you like it and make it your own! Please note that it is best to have everything ready to go before you begin cooking. You won't have time to chop in between steps! Each recipe serves about 6.
Chinese Stir Fried Chicken and Veggies
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided (I used canola)
8 oz. (1/2 lb) button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken tenders (or breast), cut into 1-1 1/2 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup shredded carrot
6 garlic cloves, minced (or 1-1/2 tbsp Garden Gourmet Garlic Paste)
8 scallions (1 bunch), white and green parts separated, each cut into 1-inch pieces
8 oz. can sliced bamboo shoots, drained
2 Tbsp white vinegar
3 Tbsp Hoisin sauce (found in the Asian aisle)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp garlic-chile paste (optional)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp corn starch in 2 tsp cool water, stirred well
1/4 tsp Sesame Oil
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup lightly salted peanuts (optional)
1. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until lightly browned and they begin to release their juice, about 7 minutes. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
2. Add 1 tsp oil to the pan and HALF of the chicken. Cook about 4 minutes, turning at 2 minutes. The chicken should be lightly browned, but not cooked through. Don't be temped to do all the chicken at once-- you'll overcrowd the pan and will end up steaming the chicken rather than stir frying it. It'll get rubbery if that happens! Remove the chicken from the pan to a plate and repeat with the second half of the chicken.
3. Add the remaining oil to the pan along with the bell pepper, carrots, garlic and whites of the scallions. Cook and stir fry until softened, about 4 minutes.
4. Add chicken and mushrooms, along with any juices, back to the pan with the vegetables. Stir in the vinegar, turn the heat down to medium, and let cook until evaporated, about 3 minutes.
5. Add the bamboo shoots, Soy Sauce, Hoisin Sauce, Chile paste and water. Cook, tossing and stirring, until the chicken is cooked through. This should take from 1 to 3 minutes.
You can amp up the heat of this dish by stirring in some chile paste. I love this stuff! The amount used in this recipe is just enough to warm your tummy. Feel free to add more and kick up the heat.
6. Add the cornstarch/water mixture and cook another minute or two to slightly thicken the sauce. Remove from heat, and stir in the green parts of the scallions and the sesame oil. Stir well. It will look saucy and delicious.
7. I decided to serve over Udon Noodles this time. Found them in the produce section. They only took 3 minutes to cook! Put those in your bowl.
8. Top noodles with chicken/sauce mixture. Sprinkle with a Tbsp or so of lightly salted roasted peanuts for a wonderful crunch if desired (not pictured).
Now on to Recipe #2!!
Cashew Chicken (Martha Stewart)
3/4 cup roasted, unsalted cashews
1-1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast or tenderloins, cut into 1-1 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
6 medium garlic cloves, minced (or 1-1/2 Tbsp Garden Gourmet Garlic Paste)
8 scallions (1 bunch), white and green parts separated, each cut into 1 inch pieces
2 Tbsp rice vinegar (NOT seasoned rice vinegar)
4 Tbsp Hoison Sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1-4 tsp sesame oil
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place cashews on a baking sheet in a single layer. Toast in oven until fragrant, about 5 minutes. They will crisp up as they cool.
2. Place chicken pieces in a large bowl and sprinkle with pepper. Toss to coat evenly.
3. In a large nonstick skillet , heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Add half of the chicken pieces to the skillet and stir fry until lightly browned but not cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
4. Add the remaining Tbsp vegetable oil to the skillet; then add remaining chicken, garlic and white parts of the scallions. Stir-fry until the chicken is lightly browned but not cooked through, about 3 minutes. Return the first batch of chicken to the pan. Turn heat down to medium and add the rice vinegar. Cook until evaporated, about 30 seconds.
5. Add the Hoisin sauce, soy sauce and water; cook, tossing, until the chicken in cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Stir in the scallion greens, cashews, and sesame oil. Serve over rice or noodles.
When I made this recipe with the right vinegar, I used skinless boneless chicken thighs. I didn't find them to be as tender as the breast meat, but it still tasted good!