It's going to come as a shock.
Sometimes, in the world we live in, things that are totally delicious and readily available to eat all the time aren't healthy for you.
I know, it came as a surprise to me, too.
I hope you'll be able to make it through your Monday with this new found knowledge.
Not really. You're probably smarter than me and already knew that the world was an evil place and just because you CAN get a Big Mac on every corner at all hours of the night doesn't mean your body needs to be ingesting that kind of nonsense.
I'm telling you, it came as a shock to me.
But, "now" that we know this, it's high time we start making more food that TASTES like takeout but is way healthier, right?
I thought so.
Enter...homemade cashew chicken!
When I lived in Tokyo, my super-snobby friends and I thought we were too good for Japanese food, so we spent all kinds of time at non-traditional restaurants. One of our favorites was this little Chinese joint in a back alley that served WONDERFUL cashew chicken. We ordered it every time we went there, and always asked for extra cashews - which were clearly the best part!
This recipe has LOTS of cashew flavor, so you'll feel just like a high schooler in Tokyo 10 years ago ordering Chinese food from a Japanese man with extra cashews.
Here's what you need for this quick version (4 servings):
- 1/2 lb chicken (4-6 chicken tenders, 2 chicken breasts, or 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken. make up your own dang mind.)
- 1/2 cup cashew pieces (unsalted is my preference)
- 1 rib celery
- 1 carrot or 1 handful baby carrots
- 1/2 cup snap peas
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 can sliced or diced water chestnuts
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon sriracha or chili sauce, plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 3 dashes fish sauce (or extra soy sauce)
- white rice, for serving
About 15 minutes before you want to serve this, be sure to start some rice. The instructions below are just for the sauce.
If your cashews are toasted, you don't need to do anything to prep them. Mine were raw, so I put them in a dry pan over medium heat for 90 seconds to very lightly toast them, then moved on with the dish.
I actually only used one pan for this whole recipe because I wasn't in a hurry - I toasted the nuts, then poached the chicken and made the stock, then I drained that and THEN started to work on the final sauce. You could do this in 3 separate pans though, and be done much faster!
Now, my chicken was raw and frozen, so I decided to poach it with some of my veggie bits that I save for stock - thereby making my own stock to use in this dish. You can do that, or cook your chicken any way you like. I like to poach it covered, then turn the heat to medium so the chicken very slowly cooks for about 20 minutes, then remove it right before it's fully cooked - it'll keep cooking in the sauce later!
When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred or chop it into bite-sized pieces.
Now, onto the sauce! Preheat a pan to medium heat (I did my chicken, then drained it, then used the same pan for the sauce, but that takes longer than having two pans working at the same time). Chop the celery rib into small slices, then chop up the carrots.
I just cut some baby carrots in half and then cut them into little half moons - we want the carrots and celery to be about the same size so they cook evenly.
My peas were nice and small already, but if yours are a bit longer you can cut them in half! These came from my grandparents' house.
When the veggies are ready, add them to the pan with a drizzle of canola or olive oil and saute them for 2 minutes. While that's happening, peel and thinly slice the garlic.
Then add the garlic to the veggies!
Let the garlic cook for 90 seconds. While that's happening, add 1/2 cup stock to a small bowl, and stir in the cornstarch to dissolve it.
Yum. Now, drain the water chestnuts and add them to the pan with the stock/starch mixture. Add 1/2 cup additional stock here too!
And, add the seasonings: sriracha, oyster sauce, soy, and fish sauce.
Note: if you're using full-salt chicken stock, leave out the soy sauce until you have added the other ingredients and tasted the gravy. If you made your own salt-free stock, you may need to add more soy sauce or fish sauce.
Now, stir this all together and add more chicken stock as needed to make a thick gravy - I added about 1/2 cup more, but this will depend on your stove. Taste the sauce, and add a bit more oyster sauce or soy if you'd like a saltier flavor.
About 5 minutes before serving, add the chicken and cashews to heat through.
Taste the sauce one more time, and you're done!
I serve this over white rice with extra chili sauce for serving, and YUM. You can make this faster, healthier, and WAY cheaper than if you ordered takeout, so why not give it a try?
What's your favorite restaurant-style meal to make at home? I'm trying to do more of that to save money and be healthier, and I'd love some ideas!