Beware: I am taking a Chinese classic and messing with it. This turned out absolutely delicious, and so quick to put together like it’s the case for stir-fries. Gather all your stuff, turn the heat on, and be ready for dinner in 5 minutes. It did involve about 25 minutes prep ahead, mostly waiting time, which was perfect to cook some rice as a side dish. Efficiency. One of my favorite words. Particularly welcome on a weeknight in which my experiment was a big failure and last thing I needed was to face a complicated dinner preparation.

(adapted from Easy Chinese Recipes – Bee Yinn Low)

for the chicken:
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 + 3/4 pound)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
2 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
a bunch of snow peas, sliced or cut in half
about 1/3 cup cashews, lightly toasted
salt to taste
for the sauce:
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp Chinese rice wine
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

Cut the chicken breasts into 1 inch pieces. Place in a bowl and add the baking soda, mixing to coat all pieces. Leave 15 minutes at room temperature. Rinse the baking soda out using a colander, then place the pieces of meat on kitchen paper to dry.

Marinate the chicken pieces in rice wine and cornstarch for a few minutes.  As the meat marinates, mix all ingredients for the sauce and set aside.

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a wok until almost smoking. Add the chicken pieces and stir-fry until almost cooked through. Remove and reserve.

Heat one more tablespoon of oil, add the grated ginger and the snow peas, stir fry for a few minutes. Add he chicken back to the wok, pour in the sauce and cook until the meat is fully cooked and coated with the sauce. Sprinkle toasted cashews, mix and warm up for a minute or so. Serve right away over steamed rice.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: What I love about this recipe is the simplified method of “velveting” the meat. Usually the process, very common in Oriental stir-fries, is a lot more involved. The pieces of meat are marinated in a mixture of egg white and cornstarch, then dropped in either simmering water or oil for a brief pre-cooking time. You can find a detailed explanation here. It results in amazing texture, but it is a bit involved, you are left not only with the wok to clean but the large pot used for the pre-cooking time. In this recipe, the meat is simply coated with baking soda, which increases the pH (or in other words, reduces acidity) and affects the way the molecules of protein at the surface of the meat interact with each other. Instead of trying to stick together and resulting in that harsh texture so common in quick stir-fry dishes, they behave with a lot more composure, and interact with the sauce components more efficiently instead. The texture changes so much that it does give the impression of velvet. Try it, and you will be hooked, I guarantee. You can use the exact same approach with other types of protein, seafood, beef, pork. Just add the baking soda, allow it to sit for 15 minutes, rinse it out, dry the meat and proceed with your recipe.

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27 thoughts on “CASHEW CHICKEN, MY WAY

  1. Sally . . . Yes, this is a Chinese classic but how have you ‘messed’ with it? For your information (big smile ! )I have just concluded looking up the cashew chicken recipes the five top Australian-Asian food bloggers give – three use your method of velveting exactly, as I do, and two, hmmm, don’t even bother! It is a great, tasty, healthy recipe to put into your weekday rotation . . . I must admit to using thighs which need ‘the special touch; a lot less !! Happy Easter if you celebrate . . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, what I meant by “messing” with it is that I omitted a sacred ingredient present in 90% of the cashew chicken recipes around – bell pepper! Either yellow, red, or green

      that is one ingredient I have a tough time digesting, so I shamelessly removed it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve had pepper issues since my mom made stuffed peppers when I was a kid. I think it was the texture (mushy) of the flesh and I’m still not that not fond of the skin as it peels off … like in unpeeled tomatoes. I still prefer the milder taste of the ripe (NOT green) ones though my tastes have evolved as I grew up and I now use red, yellow, orange and green in my fajitas, skewers, on pizza and in stir fries.


    • would ADORE to have you over… would treat you like the queen you are! Macarons, for dessert? would that be too much of a shock after a Chinese meal? Do we really care?


  2. Delicious looking dish. I’ve heard of velveting but never tried it as it seems to be too much work. Perhaps I should give it a try though. And I like cashews though I haven’t had them in ages.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful! I’ve been velveting various meats for my stir fry dishes for years (water, as disposing of all that oil is a pain!). I’ve gotta try this pH trick – thanks! (Although you are a woman. Are you sure you understand all that sciency stuff?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • OMG, you are too funny! YOu know, I am reading this early with my morning coffee and literally almost spilled it through the nose …. yeah, not sure I get the sciency stuff… you know the two X chromosomes can be a huge problem….

      agree with you – oil velveting is non-sense – I must admit I’ve never tried it, the water method is so much….. cleaner… you know there is only two hydrogens linked to a oxygen at an angle of about 106 degrees. So yeah, pretty clean. No messy mixture of palmitic, oleic and linoleic acids…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hydrogens…those are the Gen-X’ers who drink a lot of water, right? Yup. I know science.

        You know, I actually do find a slight difference in texture between water and oil velveting. I suspect it has to do with the amount of heat contained in oil vs. water, making for a gentler cooking process (in the way some restaurants I cooked in poached proteins – particularly oily fish – in oil rather than water, duping customers who think they’re getting a “healthier” dish because they ordered it poached, lol).

        I remember also reading on the Harvard food science blog years ago that the best way to saute chicken breasts was over a very low heat because of the shorter protein chains in poultry muscle tissue and the denaturing thereof. (They also added that conversely, VERY hot temps for a short amount of time- like in “wok hay” cooking – accomplished the same thing, in that it was too fast for quaternary, tertiary, and secondary structure goopiness or something. Oh, and they also wrote that all of that previous stuff applied to shrimp with their equally short protein chains.)

        Now just find some (probably color blind) Y-chromosome troglodyte to decipher all that, and you’ll be a better cook!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Sally – love the recipe, red pepper or not. My one suggestion is to give the weight of the chicken used. When I was in business I could order the size chicken breasts I wanted, 4, 6, 8 ounces, whatever. However, often when I buy now at the store, They are random, some really, really large. Just a suggestion.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Just bought the ingredients! It looks scrumptious, can’t wait. baking soda technique sounds very cool – wondering if I should maybe use 2 tsp for 4 peeps (just over 2 lbs of chicken…) we’ll see! Excited.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. awesome! I think you can play it by ear – make sure that you have a fine coating all over the pieces, but it’s not that important, because it will be rinsed out completely anyway – start maybe with a big heaping teaspoon, and if you think it’s not enough add a tad more.


  7. …. the chicken was so incredibly tender (melt in your mouth!) – I ended up marinating the pieces in the cornstarch for a couple hours in the fridge because I made it ahead and now I’m curious whether it was the baking soda sit or the cornstarch sit that did the trick – or both 😉 — I might experiment to find out! Thanks for this lovely recipe Sally, our whole family really enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

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