How can I ever forget the first time I sampled Thai Cashew Chicken. It was on our honeymoon, lazing in a picturesque veranda restaurant on a moonlit Koh Sumai beach. Gadget Guy has always been crazy about nuts … all kinds of nuts …including myself 🙂 … so Pad Med Mamuang Himaphan was a must have.
Interesting, each restaurant had a varying version of the sauce, some that we loved and some we simply couldn’t enjoy because of the overwhelming use of pungent shrimp paste! Since then not only has yours truly learned to make it but has perfected the sauce that my Gadget Guy loves the most – a more gourmet version as oppose to the street vendor version.
This is a wonderful recipe to try specially if you have kids or don’t care much for spicy Thai food. The chicken is tossed in a flavorful sweet sauce, colorful vegetables with crisp cashew nuts on top of fluffy white jasmine rice. This is my obvious choice when planning a Thai menu for friends; it provides the perfect contrast to the mellow heat of red and green curry and my favorite fish in tamarind sauce; not to mention that Gadget Guy just expects it to be there! 🙂
Slice the tomatoes lengthwise into halves and scoop out the fleshy part along with the seeds. Likewise remove the seeds from the bell pepper.Dice large pieces of the green bell peppers, red onions and tomatoes (1”x1”) till you have ½ cup of each.
Rinse and soak the Shiitake mushrooms in ½ a cup of tepid water. They will absorb the water and become soft and squidgy.
The mushrooms need to be sliced thinly and I prefer my kitchen scissors over the knife and the cutting board any time of the day; try it yourself and I promise you will never use a knife again on re-hydrated mushrooms!!! Let the sliced shiitake mushrooms soak a bit more in the same water till ready to use. Retain the soaking water for the sauce as it’s packed with the yummy earthen flavor.
Toss the chicken pieces in the fish sauce and coat with the flour. This helps to seal in the moisture and give the chicken pieces a delicious glaze.
Heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok and add the chicken pieces. Toss at intervals till light brown; they should not be cooked through as they will cook further in the sauce.
Take out the chicken and spread evenly in a plate so that heat doesn’t get trapped and cooks them further. Trust me, I know what I’m saying and this isn’t a physics experiment. 😉
Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a skillet and then the bell peppers.
Add the onions and the fish sauce and toss for around 30 seconds till the vegetables are glazed with the oil and fish sauce.
Add the tomatoes and immediately take out on a plate. We do not want the tomatoes to cook and lose shape and texture in the skillet. The heat from the onions and peppers will be enough to soften them just slightly.
The onions and the peppers should be crisp and not soggy.
Heat some more oil and add the chopped garlic, sliced galangal, dried red chilies, keffir leaf and a bashed and bruised lemongrass stalk. And no, I do not have anger management issues, but trust me that stalk needs some bashing to release those flavors.
Fry till the garlic is a lovely golden brown and aromatic.
In a small bowl combine the Thai Ketchup, the Sriracha Sauce and the oyster sauce and add to the wok. If you cannot find Sriracha Sauce, substitute with 1/2 tablespoon of hot sauce.
Bring it all to a simmer and then add the fish sauce. If you are wondering where my measuring spoon is, there isn’t any 🙂 I just eye-ball the ingredients quantity and taste as I go along – I’ve always cooked like this unless I’m baking or making rice.
Fish out the shiitake slices and add them to the sauce. DO-NOT throw away the soaking water! Add the sugar and let cook on simmer for everything to release their flavors and make you kitchen smell like your favorite Thai restaurant….. errr or maybe not!
Add the cornstarch to the shiitake water that you remembered not to throw away 🙂 and stir to dissolve it.
Add it to the wok slowly to thicken the sauce.
Add the half done chicken back into the wok along with the plum sauce and let the chicken cook thoroughly but do not overcook the chicken or it will turn out too tough and chewy. You can add a couple of tablespoons of water if you feel the sauce is drying up too fast.
Add the sautéed vegetables and give everything in the wok a good couple of tosses and you are ready to serve!
Dish out in a flat platter. This isn’t supposed to be soupy or swimming in the sauce but just coated really well. Scatter some (or lots of) roasted or fried cashew nuts on top and enjoy with jasmine rice.
- For The Chicken
- ½ lb Chicken Breast – Cut Into Cubes
- 3 tablespoon Flour
- 1 tablespoon Fish Sauce
- 3 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
- For The Vegetables
- 3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- ½ Cup Red Onion – Diced Large
- ½ Cup Roma Tomato – Diced Large
- ½ Green Pepper/Capsicum – Diced Large
- 2 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
- For The Sauce
- 2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- 2-3 Whole Dried Chiles
- 3 Slices Galangal- 1” Pieces
- 2 Tablespoons Garlic – Finely chopped
- 1 Stalk Lemongrass - Bashed
- 1 Keffir Lime Leaf
- 2 Teaspoons Oyster Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon Sriracha Sauce
- 3 Tablespoons Thai ketchup
- 1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce
- 4 Tablespoons Thai Plum Sauce
- 1 ½ Tablespoons Sugar
- ½ Teaspoon Salt
- 4-5 Shiitake Mushrooms
- ½ Cup Water for Soaking Mushrooms
- 2 Teaspoons Corn flour
- ½ cup Dry Roasted/Fried Cashew Nuts
- De-seed the tomatoes and green peppers.
- Cut the tomatoes, onions and green peppers into 1”pieces.
- Rinse and soak the Shiitake mushrooms in ½ a cup of tepid water till soft.
- Using kitchen scissors cut the shiitake mushrooms into thin slices and then re-soaks in same water.
- Mix 1 Tbsp Fish Sauce with the cubed chicken pieces and then coat well with flour.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok and add the chicken pieces.
- Stir fry on high heat until brown but not cooked thoroughly.
- Remove to a plate.
- Add 2 Tbsp oil to the wok and add green peppers and the onions with 2 tbsp fish sauce.
- Toss well and while the vegetables are crisp, add the tomatoes and immediately remove to a plate.
- Heat 2 more Tbsps of the oil and add the chopped garlic, sliced galangal, dried red chilies, keffir leaf and the lemongrass stalk.
- Stir-fry till garlic is light brown and the other ingredients fragrant.
- Add the Thai Ketchup, Sriracha Sauce, fish sauce and the oyster sauce.
- Add the sliced shiitake and the sugar.
- Let simmer.
- Add the cornstarch to the water the mushrooms were soaked in and stir till dissolved.
- Add this cornstarch slurry to the sauce and thicken slightly.
- Re add the chicken to a wok and cook for another minute.
- If the sauce dries up to fast, just add a splash of water.
- Add the sauteed vegetables back into the wok and toss.
- Serve immediately with cashew-nuts on top.