Cashew Chicken with Cabbage . $3.90

Gosh, I’m spoiled – I lived for years not far from an excellent Asian restaurant in Colorado and know how wonderful and healthy food from the various cultures that loosely comprise Asia can be. When I moved to the Twin Cities years ago, and suggested Asian for lunch to a group of co-workers, they turned up their noses. “We don’t want anything that fattening.” Fattening? What?

Cashew Chicken
Cashew Chicken

The Asian food I was used to eating was wonderful, fresh with tender/crisp vegetables, and an abundance of them, a modest amount of chicken, beef, pork or seafood, and beautiful sauces. What were my co-workers talking about? Now Ms. Frau and her frugal household do not often foray into the restaurant world – but even we have noticed a trend toward breaded and deep-fried, and sweet, thick sauces. Dishes that aren’t deep-fried are often little more than piles of meat or chicken with a couple of green onions and a smidge of vegetables.

Asian food shouldn't be reduced to this!
Asian food shouldn’t be reduced to this!

Admittedly, sometimes it tastes sooo good – I can definitely put a huge dent in a number of dishes if I’m not careful. Some of you might remember my little addiction to Bourbon Chicken not too long ago – but I’m not going there, today. I’m bringing something light and fresh and wonderous to the table. Something with a bit of tang, a hint of spice wrapped around just the slightest suggestion of sweet: Cashew Chicken. This one has onion, mushroom and the much maligned cabbage, one of the healthiest of vegetables.

As far as “authenticity,” (*snorts* I hate that word and the snobbery that comes with it, don’t you?) make this beautiful dish authentically yours, how you like it – suggestions are below to slightly modify to your taste. Feel free to use your favorite vegetables, too. But please, please, do eat your veggies. Grandma Frau says so!

If cabbage and mushrooms don’t do it for you, sub in something else: bell peppers, carrots, celery or a combination. I once made this with only celery for a person who didn’t like any other cooked vegetable, and it was surprisingly good. As far as cost, I choose the least expensive options on the cabbage and mushroom and used the just as healthy green cabbage and button mushrooms. If you’d like, use a Chinese cabbage or Bok choy and shiitake mushrooms. Water chestnuts are also classic to this dish.

The cost for the Chicken? About $3.65. The rice? Around another quarter or so. Truly a bargain meal as well as a healthy one.

Cashew Chicken with Cabbage

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 cup cashews, dry roasted, unsalted
  • 1 to 2 chicken breasts, cut into thin strips (I use about 6 to 12 ounces)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 to four 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 or more sliced red chilies, 1/2 teaspoon or more of garlic Chili sauce (may omit garlic if using) or 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes (see note)
  • 1 lemon grass stalk, pale section sliced and minced or about 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 4 to 5 green onions, sliced diagonally into fourths
  • 1/2 small-sized head cabbage or Chinese cabbage, quartered and then thinly (about 3/8″ to 1/2″ inch or so) sliced, or Bok Choy, sliced thinly
  • 3 to 4 stalks celery and leaves, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced, more if you wish

Marinade for the Chicken:

  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons Soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Mirin, white wine or sherry
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons Mirin, white wine or sherry
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth or water (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

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, chile (or Garlic Chili sauce,) and lemon grass (or lemon) for one to two minutes over medium high heat.

Add mushrooms and onion, and continue to cook, two to three minutes. If the pan becomes too dry, add a bit of broth or wine, perhaps a tablespoon at a time. Add the cabbage and cook for a quick minute – just until the color begins to change. Do not over cook the cabbage – it will be cooking in the sauce and will continue to cook a bit more from residual heat when the dish is done.

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 add a bit more chili if you prefer more heat and make sure everything is to your liking. Adjust if needed.

Add in the chicken and any accumulated juices, the cashews and green onion. Toss and stir to combine. Serve over rice.

Notes:

  • Remove the dish from the hot skillet as soon as possible so it does not continue to steam and cook the cabbage.
  • The sauce as it stands is just thick enough to lightly cling to the vegetables and chicken and pool through the rice – if you prefer a thick sauce, start with reducing the amount of stock to 1/2 cup.
  • Heat level: As it stands, at the lowest measurements given, the chile in this dish is just enough to give the faintest tingle on the tongue – you may wish to reduce if serving those unused to spice or increase if you have those who love spicy food in your family.

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read {Strategies Applied} for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

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Nutrition:

This Recipe: Using 12 ounces of chicken, 6 servings: calories 287; Total Fat 16 g 24 %; Saturated Fat 2 g 10 %; Monounsaturated Fat 9 g; Polyunsaturated Fat 4 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 33 mg 11 %;
Sodium 1075 mg 45 %; Potassium 609 mg 17 %; Total Carbohydrate 21 g 7 %; Dietary Fiber 3 g 12 %; Sugars 9 g; Protein 18 g 36 %; Vitamin A 14 %; Vitamin C 60 %; Calcium 6 %; Iron 14 %

It’s only been recently (last 10 years or so) that I’ve seen Cashew Chicken with basically no vegetables; perhaps a few sprigs of green onion. Here’s what happens when you don’t think about balance! This is a very popular, much pinned recipe using Hoisin Sauce as one of the main ingredients, made out of almost all chicken and only green onion as the vegetable. This is about the same serving size:

All Chicken Recipe: Calories 739; Total Fat 35%; Saturated Fat 2 11 %; Monounsaturated Fat 14 g; Polyunsaturated Fat 4 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 270 mg 90 %; Sodium 1033 mg 43 %; Potassium 304 mg 9 %; Total Carbohydrate 20 7 %; Dietary Fiber 4 14 %; Sugars 8 g; Protein 111 221 %; Vitamin A 22 %; Vitamin C 34%; Calcium 11%; Iron 8 %

Put Your own Spin on It:

  • I’ve given suggestions throughout; make this dish how you like it.

Recipe made April 2014

Comments and discussion always welcome - tell me what you think.

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