The funny thing is, we weren’t sick of noodles and seafood. We ate beef in Japan more than once, but the point is that we had been eating Asian food for a month, and couldn’t resist the siren call of American comfort food. We wandered the streets of downtown San Francisco passing Asian, Thai, Vietnamese and even Indonesian restaurants that we would ordinarily have been thrilled to see. We wanted to avoid chain restaurants, but in the end we ended up at the Cheese Cake Factory…mmm, sliders.
The next day, we wandered around the Ferry Plaza for hours, and I ended the day, yet again, with a juicy hamburger and sweet potato fries. It was fun to crave this food that I normally feel less than excited about. When we finally did get home, we cooked healthy American recipes, like our staple black bean burritos. The luscious roasted vegetable linguini from my last post was a re-introduction to Italian cuisine. After about 3 weeks without Asian food and craving the exotic once again, we tossed together shrimp, chicken, vegetables and rice vermicelli with a tangy Vietnamese dressing. A few days later, we revisited the dishes we learned at the fantastic cooking school we attended in Thailand and made this recipe.
This is the photo of the cashew chicken as we made it in Thailand. Our home version lived up to the delicious taste memory.
Thai Cashew Chicken (Gai Pad Med Ma-Muang)
Adapted from Bai Pai Cooking School
Mike slices the chicken as thinly as possible so it cooks quickly. Use a very sharp knife and cut at an angle as if you are slicing a flank steak. Dried Thai chiles would be ideal, but the medium-hot chiles de arbol I had on hand worked really well. If you don't have dried chiles, sprinkle in some hot red pepper flakes, since you really should have at least a little heat in this dish. The Thai chili paste is irreplaceable as far as I know. Luckily, you can get it online here and probably in well-stocked markets.
3 tbs. canola oil, divided
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 1/2 tbs. Thai chili paste (Mae Pranom brand)
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 large onion, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1 tbs. sugar
6 dried red chiles (such as chiles de arbol)
Generous 1/2 cup raw cashews, toasted (or substitute dry roasted, unsalted cashews)
5 scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
Steamed Thai jasmine rice, for serving
Heat 1 tbs. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken, season with salt and pepper and stir fry until cooked through. Put the chicken in a bowl and set aside. Repeat with 1 tbs. of the oil and the rest of the chicken.
Add the remaining oil to the empty skillet and heat. Add the chili paste, stirring constantly to break it up for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, red bell pepper, onion, oyster sauce and sugar. Stir well and simmer for 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, return the chicken to the skillet and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened and the vegetables are tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the chiles, cashews and scallions, stir to combine and serve immediately over rice.
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