"There's no need to go out for or pick up Chinese food that is loaded with salt and fat when you can make this quick Spicy Cashew Chicken with Asparagus right at home. It is both low-fat and low-calorie and done in less time than it takes to call in an order. Much less pick it up."
The making of Spicy Cashew Chicken with Asparagus
My recipe for Spicy Cashew Chicken with Asparagus is based on a recipe by Martin Yan from his book "Feast, the Best of Yan Can Cook." first published in 1998 and given to me by Mr. Yan himself in 1999. Martin Yan is a very interesting man, funny, but not in a haha way; gracious and kind. AND he has a very good grasp of the English language. His on-screen persona is just that, his on-screen persona. "Feast" contains some very good Chinese recipes, adapted to American tastes. No, you won't find odd things in this book, it's all-American Chinese Food.
As Martin Yan states in Feast "anything you do over and over again, you will learn to do well." The practice makes perfect scenario. And it's true. Martin can cut up a chicken in 18 seconds.
That not only takes practice, but it also involves a little trick. He totally has all the joints of the chicken broken down before he even starts with his cleaver.
And he wields a big cleaver.
But enough of that, back to the making of Spicy Cashew Chicken with Asparagus.
I find it difficult to find really good Chinese food where I live. It's decent, but after you've sat down, and each of you has ordered your main, and the rice, the bill generally comes to $50 or more. I just don't find the food worth that much money. I mean it's soy sauce, chicken stock, water, and cornstarch for the most part; with more veggies than meat. And more sauce than veggies. So why not make it yourself, add the amount of meat you want, the veggies you want, and the sauce you want? And once everything is prepped and ready, this meal is on the table in about 10 minutes' time. Fresh and hot.
While you're prepping your veggies and cutting up the chicken (different cutting boards please, let's not cross-contaminate) start your rice and the whole dinner will be ready at the same time. Or you could serve this on soba or rice noodles. If you are feeling like going for a full-on Chinese meal, try it with some of my Easy Pork Fried Rice. (This will take a little planning but is a great idea if you have some left-over rice.)
Kick it up with some heat?
I like my Chinese with a little heat in it, so I added some garlic chili sauce to the recipe. You, of course, don't have to.
Veggie it with what's in season
It's also spring and asparagus is in season, so I added them as well. Again, up to you. You could add green beans to the mix if you so desired. Or peas. Both the green beans and the asparagus should first be blanched in simmering water; asparagus for about 3 minutes, beans 5 - 7 minutes, then plunged into ice water so they retain their green color and don't turn army green blech.
How to toast nuts - the best way
Being Cashew Chicken, cashews are important. If you don't have cashews that are already toasted, put them into a 325° oven and roast them for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Trying to roast nuts in a hot pan on top of the stove is just, nuts, in my opinion. Too much coddling is needed to keep them from burning before you get them nicely toasted. The slow even heat of an oven is perfect. Unsalted cashews are the best for this dish, but if you only have salted ones, just take the soy sauce back a notch. And when it comes to soy sauce, what do you know? LOW-SODIUM is the ONLY way to go. Full sodium has way too much sodium for a healthy diet.
The chicken meat is your choice - light or dark?
Chicken. Breast or thigh meat? Your choice again. I prefer thigh meat because of the texture; breast meat is lower in calories, so just use what you want. Or, what you have.
Add spice to the meat, not the pan
In the original recipe, and in most recipes I see for these types of dishes, they always have you add the ginger and garlic to the hot oil, and then add the chicken. It's all done within 10 seconds and I've found if your pan is too hot, 10 seconds can burn the ginger and garlic. This is not good. So, I add these ingredients right to my marinade. I mean, 10 minutes of sitting in the ginger and garlic can only enhance the flavor of the chicken, right?
OK...let's get cooking.
Spicy Cashew Chicken with Asparagus
- To Marinate the Chicken
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons dry sherry or Chinese rice wine
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- For the Rest
- pound boneless skinless chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- 1 small yellow onion cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 small red bell pepper seeded and cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 zucchini cut into ½ inch cubes
- ½ pound asparagus trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces, blanched, tops set aside
- Saucy Sauce
- ½ cup low-sodium chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon garlic chili sauce optional
- ½ teaspoon sesame seed oil
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- A slurry of 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 teaspoons water
- ½ cup roasted whole cashews
- Combine the marinade ingredients together in a bowl, add the chicken and let sit for 10 minutes while you prepare the veggies.
- Mix the chicken stock, soy sauce, garlic chili sauce (if using), sesame seed oil, and sugar together in a bowl. Set-aside.
- Place a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat; heat until hot. Add the oil, swirling to coat the sides; add the chicken and stir-fry for about 2 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper zucchini, asparagus bottoms, and stir-fry until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and cook for 1 minute longer, add the asparagus tops along with the slurry to thicken it all up. Stir in the cashews and serve.