Peashew Chicken

A long-running joke between some of my closest friends is that I’m secretly Asian.  This could have something to do with the whole dark hair/dark eyes/fair skin combination, or the fact that out of the four people that make this joke, three are Chinese and one is Japanese.  More likely, though, this has to do with my undying obsession with Asian cuisine.  When people ask me what my ultimate comfort food is, my immediate response is ‘miso soup with brown rice.’  I have a mild addiction to shrimp crackers, I brought hondashi, matcha and an economy-sized bottle of Sriracha with me to South Africa because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find it in Cape Town, and I would definitely run back into a burning building to rescue my Zojirushi rice cooker.

I’ve already featured some Asian recipes here; krayasaat, the warm soba salad, and sesame matcha macaroons.  This time, though, I’m skipping authentic snacks and all things Asian-inspired in favor of a super easy, super delicious Chinese recipe.  Don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list, since everything will be available at a regular grocery store.  It’s a well-rounded, healthy meal in a bowl with notes of salty, sweet, and umami, and of course, is served over perfectly cooked white rice.  I swear it tastes better when you eat it with chopsticks (if you don’t know how to use them, learn!  Once you can pick up oiled peanuts, you’re an expert.  At least according to my a-yi 阿姨).  This meal is also great reheated, so don’t feel like you have to share.

Oh, and since you’re probably wondering what’s up with the name; either peanuts or cashews work well with this recipe.  I’ve made it both ways and love them equally, and in the interest of avoiding nut discrimination decided to be inclusive when titling the post.

the chicken in its cashew incarnation.

Peashew Chicken
Serves 4, or just you for 4 meals, because this is so good you won’t want to share
based on a recipe from Appetite for China

Ingredients:

1 pound skinless chicken breast or tenders, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup soy sauce (low sodium variety is best, you can also use Tamari to make this gluten-free)
¼ cup water
1 tablesoon white rice wine or mirin
2 teaspoons chili sauce (I used sriracha because I was cooking for others, though la jiao is excellent if you can really handle the heat)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 to 3 scallion stalks, chopped
2 large handfuls mung bean sprouts
1 head bok choy (about 6-7’’ long), chopped, though feel free to add more
1 handful unsalted peanuts or cashews, crushed (either roasted or unroasted are fine)
Cilantro for garnish (optional)

A bit on rice:

I like to use Nishiki medium-grain white rice, but any plain white rice will be fine, with the exception of that microwaveable Uncle Ben’s crap.  Buy your rice in a bag and cook it properly, it’s worth it.  Make sure not to use Jasmine or Basmati; even though they’re delicious, they will make this dish less so.  You could also use brown, if you want to be uber-healthy.  I use about two scoops using my rice cooker measuring cup, but if you’re cooking rice in the pot follow the instructions at the bottom of the post.

Instructions:

Place the chicken pieces in large bowl. In a small bowl, mix together the soy, water, mirin, chili sauce, and sesame oil. Reserve half and set aside. Pour the remaining half over the chicken and stir to coat. Let marinate for a minimum of 20 minutes, though 2-3 hours is way better.

Once the chicken has absorbed all of those delicious flavors, heat the peanut oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.  Your ingredients should be aromatic, but not browned.

Add the meat and cook, stirring constantly or about 3 minutes, until meat is lightly browned/not pink on the outside.

Add the rest of the sauce and let it simmer until it thickens.  The first time I made this was on a hardcore Viking range and it took about 4 minutes, but then when I’ve subsequently made it on my lil old electric stove it has taken at least 10 (this could also be because I tweaked the recipe to cut down on the saltiness factor, which I found a little too intense even with low-sodium soy). Add in the bok choy and bean sprouts, stirring to coat.  Throw in the scallions and nuts. Cover and cook on medium low for another 1 to 2 minutes. Serve over rice, topping off with fresh cilantro and a few extra nuts if desired.

Rice is nice:

If you’re using a rice cooker, follow the rice cooker instructions.  And make sure you rinse/soak your rice first (for white and brown rice, respectively).  Otherwise, try this foolproof method.

Brown rice should be soaked for at least an hour before cooking.  You don’t need to soak white rice.  No matter the type, rinse in a mesh strainer until the water runs clear.  Drain excess water, and put into a small saucepan and spread it evenly over the bottom.  Now, place your index finger in the center of the pot until the tip of it just touches the rice.  Carefully pour water into the pot, ensuring that you don’t agitate the rice overmuch and ruin your nice level surface.  Keep pouring until the water comes up to the first joint on your finger, the one closest to your fingernail.  Cover and cook on medium until the water is nearly all evaporated.  Remove from heat, stir and let sit covered until you’re ready to eat.

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