One year ago, I went on a hike-bike-kayak tour of Thailand, which ended up being a culinary tour of Thailand for our group. Every meal we ate was delicious, often made by the tour guides or locals when we were staying in small villages. Unlikely but memorable meals were on the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang mai, and again from Changmai to Kanchanaburi. One of these excellent meals was the Cashew Chicken.
In Australia, Cashew Chicken ordered at your local Asian restaurant can be quite sweet and lacking in complexity. This train cashew chicken was anything but one-dimensional. Revolutionary was the addition of cherry tomatoes and mushrooms, adding a much needed umami flavour. Tomatoes and mushrooms were much more prevalent in Thai food than I realised they would be.
When I had a chance at the end of the tour, I took the opportunity to do a cooking lesson. I jumped on the chance to learn how to make the cashew chicken. The cooking lesson’s version was quite different to the train’s version, but both were tasty. This is my take on the cooking lesson version, with a bit of tweaking due to local ingredients.
This version is spicier than most Cashew Chicken, hence the name Cashew Chili Chicken. The dried chilis add a lot of the kick to this meal, so adjust the quantity of dried chilis if this is too spicy or not spicy enough.
I find the key to this meal is preparation, chopping ahead of any cooking. This allows you to concentrate on the stir frying. This is why I put groups of ingredients added at once into bowls, so it’s easy to add as you stir fry. You don’t have to do it this way, I just find it easier.
The chicken stock is used to add liquid as the sauce thickens, but also to wash the delicious caramelised sauce that is on the side of the wok. You don’t need to use the entire cup, just use as needed – most likely around 1/2 cup.
I hope you like it! Make sure you have a glass of water near by!
- Bowl 1:
- 5g of small very hot dried chilis, roughly chopped
- Bowl 2:
- 90g cashews
- ½ 250g punnet of cherry tomatoes, quartered
- approx 6 spring onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
- Bowl 3:
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 small red capsicum
- 1 can straw mushrooms, rinsed and diced
- Bowl 4 - sauce:
- 2.25 tblsp sambal oelek
- 2.25 tblsp oyster sauce
- 2 tblsp light soy sauce
- 1 tblsp ground black pepper
- 2 chicken breasts, thinly sliced
- ½ cup plain flour
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 4 rice cooker cups of white rice
- Place the chicken and flour in a large ziplock bag and shake to coat chicken with flour.
- Rinse rice with water, and put in the rice cooker with 4.5 rice cooker cups of water.
- Put 2-3 tablespoons of oil into a large hot wok, and heat until small bubbles form when you put a wooden spoon in.
- Add ⅓ of the chicken (with loose flour shaken off), and fry until golden brown, then place on a plate with paper towel to drain. Repeat in 3 batches, adding a little more oil if necessary between batches.
- Cool wok slightly, and wipe down with paper towel.
- Add 2 tablespoons of oil, and reheat oil in wok.
- Add dried chilis, and fry until fragrant and somewhat darkened. Watch this! The chilis can burn quickly.
- Add Bowl 3 (mushrooms, onion, capsicum), and stir fry until the onion is transparent.
- Add Bowl 4, the sauce, and stir fry for approx 2 minutes. As the sauce sticks to the side of the wok, wash down with a little stock to deglaze.
- Add Bowl 2 (cashews, tomatoes, spring onion), and chicken, and mix to coat with sauce. Wash down the wok with stock as the sauce thickens and sticks.
- As tomato softens a little, serve with cooked rice and enjoy!