This is one of my fave dishes that leans toward the Asian side, and it’s basically a Thai Cashew Chicken. The proper name, I understand is gai pad med mamuang tho admittedly, I didn’t know that until recently. Actually, until recently, even tho I’ve been making this for decades, I didn’t even realize it was heavily Thai inspired. Live and learn, amirite!
Some of the ingredients might have clued me in, many are classically Thai. And the bit of heat def should have been clue. But what really clued me in was when a family member who hails from China took a peek at my recipe and said: “No no no no no no, you use Hoisin!” Well, you do if you’re making a Chinese version of Cashew Chicken and that’s on my list for here sometime, especially since I now have the inside scoop, lol! I still smile because it wasn’t just one no, it was like 37!
About Thai Cashew Chicken:
In the meantime, this gorgeous Thai inspired stir fry has become a family recipe, on rotation frequently. It really stands in contrast to our American Cashew Chicken with it’s bright, slightly spicy sauce (you can make it as spicy or not as you’d like) and an array of stir-fried veggies.
The chicken has a short marinade which can be done as you ready the rest of the ingredients and that gives it the silky texture often seen in Asian dishes and so much flavor. Now whether that step is Thai, I might question, but it’s a worthwhile step all the same.
Like many Asian dishes, it looks like a lot of ingredients. Don’t be dismayed! I’m gonna give you some common options just in case your pantry doesn’t look like mine although if you cook along with me, you might be persuaded to gradually pick up items here and there! And in spite of the list, the recipe is simple and easy and super fast.
Prepping for Thai Cashew Chicken:
You’ll start out by marinating the chicken in a mix of soy, Mirin, sesame oil, and cornstarch. 30 minutes will do it. Slice the breast, diagonally, into thin slices. Have a sharp knife and if you’re having trouble, the chicken can be tossed in the freezer for about 20 minutes to firm it up. Just another quick hint, when working with cornstarch in a sauce add it to the bowl first and then add the liquid ingredients slowly, mixing like mad with a fork. You won’t have any clumping or lumps.
That same hint holds true for the sauce, which I recommend making and setting aside. If the cornstarch settles, stir it back up before adding to the pan. Then cut all your veggies but keep them in separate piles. Have your garlic minced and ready, your chilis (or substitute) ready, and the lemongrass (or substitute) ready, too. And before you start cooking, start your rice. That’s how fast this goes.
This is a case where you might not want to put everything away until you’re done, just in case you want to adjust the flavors to your taste. You might want a little more heat, sweet, etc. once you taste it. As I make it there really isn’t much heat and it’s family-friendly but I know as soon as the word Thai is mentioned some peeps wanna be blown away.
Making Thai Cashew Chicken:
You’ll start off with a good amount of oil in your pan and watching carefully, brown up the cashews, and set them aside. They go quickly! Be careful. Then you’ll drain off a little of that oil and add in the chicken. Stir fry that until just done and place on a clean plate. Clean out the pan if needed, if it’s crusty, gunky, and in danger of burning. Drain off any excess oil.
Next, working over high heat, toss in the onions and mushrooms, and once they’ve given up their juices and started to just brown, toss in the garlic, chilis, and lemongrass. Within seconds, as soon as that’s fragrant, and it will be fragrant, in goes the cabbage and celery. That will cool the skillet down and at this point, you can adjust the heat down little, and stir the cabbage around, for about two to three minutes until it starts to soften. Don’t overcook it though, you do want it crisp/tender.
Add the chicken back and the green onions along with the sauce and stir; the sauce thickens immediately! Take it off heat and taste and adjust. If you want more salty flavor, add more soy or fish sauce. If you want more heat I’d suggest adding a bit of Chile Garlic Paste or Sriracha. And of course, for more sweet or sour, add more sugar or a little more vinegar or lemon. I like to get this dish out of the pan as soon as it’s done. With cabbage (or bok choy) the dish feels so fresh when it’s finished but if you keep it in the hot pan, it will steam and get soggy and that cabbabe-y taste gets stronger.
Saving Money on Thai Cashew Chicken:
Like many stir-fries, you can go very light on the protein and save a little money; it just depends on your family’s tastes. None of the veggies here are pricey unless maybe you use bok choy (which is fabulous) and that depends on your area. Cabbage is a great, cheap substitute.
There’s no need to ever pay full price for chicken – it goes on sale too often. It pays to know the difference between a good sales price and a rock bottom sales price (usually about once a quarter) and stock up at the low. Often these are larger family packs so portion out in sizes suitable for meals for your family and freeze.
As far as Asian condiments and ingredients, often on unadvertised (especially around the Chinese New Year) sales, the market is competitive. Check in the Ethnic sections of the store as well as near the American/Asian if your store has both. Producers sometimes have coupons which often make the bottles free with a good sale. Your best bet for great prices is at an Asian market, and while you’re there check around. The prices on chicken and other cuts of meat are often outstanding!
Lemongrass has only recently become available at my supermarket in Minnesota. I actually grow it in my garden and freeze it for recipes. Check out the Substitute and Make Do, above if you don’t have any, or if you don’t have any of the other ingredients.Print
Thai Cashew Chicken
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x
- Category: Chicken Main Dish
- Cuisine: Thai
See body of post for substitutions.
Ingredients for Stir Fry:
- 1 to 2 chicken breasts, cut into thin strips, marinated 30 minutes (see marinade, below)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons oil
- 1/2 cup cashews, dry roasted, unsalted
- 1 onion, sliced in half and then lengthwise
- 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- 3 to four 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 to 4 or more thinly sliced red Thai chilies (I prefer one.)
- 1 lemongrass stalk, pale section sliced and minced
- 1/2 small-sized head cabbage or Chinese cabbage, quartered and then thinly (about 3/8″ to 1/2″ inch or so) sliced, or equal amount of Bok Choy, sliced thinly
- 3 to 4 stalks celery and leaves, thinly sliced on the diagonal
- stir fry sauce (below)
- 4 to 5 green onions, sliced diagonally into 2-inch pieces
Marinade for the Chicken:
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Mirin
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
Stir Fry Sauce:
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons Mirin
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- pinch of white pepper
Mix ingredients for marinade: Add cornstarch to a bowl, slowly add in liquid ingredients, stirring well to dissolve cornstarch. Add chicken, toss to coat and marinate while preparing the rest of the ingredients for the meal.
Combine sauce ingredients, starting with cornstarch and blending in the same way. Taste sauce, and adjust to your liking. if you wish a bit more tang, add a bit more rice vinegar. If not salty enough, add a bit more fish sauce, and if you’d like it sweeter, a bit more sugar. Make a note for next time! Set aside. Cornstarch may thicken and settle at the bottom, stir before using.
In a large wok or frying pan, add oil. Heat to medium-high. Tilting to pool the oil at one edge if using a frying pan, add cashews, stirring constantly until lightly browned. Remove promptly and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Remove all but a tablespoon or two of the oil and reserve the portion you’ve removed.
Add chicken and cook, stirring, until it turns white and is just cooked through. Remove and set aside. Wipe the skillet or wok clean if necessary, and add a tablespoon of the reserved oil. Fry the garlic, chili and lemongrass (or lemon zest) over medium-high heat until fragrant.
Add mushrooms and onion, and continue to cook, two to three minutes. If the pan becomes too dry, add a little of the reserved oil. Add the cabbage and celery, turn the heat down to medium and cook until slightly wilted, stirring often, but still retains some crispness.
Add the sauce (remember to stir or whisk sauce before adding.) Continue stirring until the sauce boils and thickens slightly, one to two more minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust to taste. Immediately add the chicken back in with any accumulated juices along with the green onion. Toss and stir to combine. It is best to remove immediately from the skillet; it will continue to cook from residual heat.
Garnish with cashews and serve over rice.
Note: nutrition based on 6 servings using 12 ounces of chicken.
- Serving Size: 1/6th
- Calories: 287
- Sugar: 9 grams
- Sodium: 1047 mg
- Fat: 16 grams
- Saturated Fat: 2 grams
- Carbohydrates: 21 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Protein: 18 grams
- Cholesterol: 33 mg
Keywords: Asian, Bargain Meal of the Week, Bok Choy, Cabbage, cashews, Chicken, Fish Sauce, Green Onion, Hot Peppers, Lemon, mushrooms, Nuts and Seeds, Rice, rice vinegar, Soy, Thai, thai chiles, Vinegar.