As much as I love Chinese food, I find that the stuff served in restaurants is often disappointing. With day-glow coloured sauces and some strangely artificial flavours, it is never quite as I hoped it would be. It’s certainly nothing like the food you would be served in someone’s home in China. That’s where the wonderful Ching-He Huang comes in. Author of several cookery books, including Chinese Food Made Easy, Ching is quick to point out that traditional Chinese food is healthy food. Her aim is to “demonstrate how light, healthy and simple Chinese cooking can be”and by simplifying and modernising traditional dishes she makes them much more accessible and easier to cook.
One of my favourite recipes from Chinese Food Made Easy is Ching’s Chicken and Cashew Nut Stir Fry. Light and delicious, it is a world away from any version I have ever eaten in a restaurant, and my family really do prefer it. I usually adapt the recipe to suit the vegetables I have in my fridge, and I often add a few more than the recipe calls for. Ching recommends serving this dish with Jasmine rice but I prefer to use Basmati. It might not be strictly authentic, but this dish is so delicious, I really do think it would be nice with any kind of rice. I’ve also been known to use sunflower oil instead of groundnut oil as I don’t always have groundnut oil on hand. My slightly adapted version of Ching’s recipe is below. There are more wonderful recipes on her website.
A couple of notes:
You may not think that one egg white and a tablespoon of cornflour is enough to batter the chicken. I didn’t the first time, but trust me, it really is.
A wok really is the best thing for cooking Chinese dishes and stir fries. I bought a Le Creuset wok a while ago and while I cringed at paying what seemed like an extortionate price, it really was one of the best kitchen investments I’ve ever made. You can use a frying pan in a pinch, but a wok is so much easier and I really do think the food tastes better.
Ching also suggests that this can be served as a chow mein by adding some cooked egg noodles with the cashew nuts and spring onion. It’s a delicious variation.
Chicken and Cashew Nut Stir Fry
Slightly adapted from Chinese Food Made Easy
For the chicken:
1 egg white
1 tablespoon cornflour (corn starch)
1 pinch of salt
2 to 3 chicken breasts, sliced
10 fluid ounces of groundnut or sunflower oil
For the stir fry:
1 onion, sliced
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into strips
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into strips
1 green pepper, deseeded and cut into strips
2 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on the diagonal
3 tablespoons chicken stock
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 large spring onions, sliced
¼ cup roasted cashew nuts
a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper
cooked Basmati rice to serve
Whisk the cornflour with the egg white and salt in a bowl. Add the chicken and stir to coat well.
Heat the oil in a wok over very high heat until it is nearly smoking. (Don’t leave the pan even for a second as the oil can ignite.) Fry the chicken in batches until golden brown and crispy. As each batch of chicken is done, remove it with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent kitchen paper.
Meanwhile cook your rice according to package directions.
Carefully remove all but one tablespoon of the hot oil from the wok. Add the onion and stir fry for a minute or two, then add the remaining vegetables and stir fry until tender crisp. Add the chicken pieces and stir fry to warm back through.
Mix the stock, soy sauce and a bit of salt and pepper together and add to the chicken and vegetables in the wok, stirring lightly to coat.
Add the spring onions and cashew nuts and stir through.
Drain the rice and divide between four plates or bowls. Divide the chicken and cashew nut stir fry between them and serve.