Greetings from Lahore!
As always, I’m learning a great deal during my stay in Pakistan. I’m learning about the beauty of Pakistani culture, the struggles of a developing country and of course my favorite thing – food.
One interesting thing I’ve learned –
It’s not just me.
It seems all of Pakistan has a fondness for Pakistani-style Chinese food. Since the beginning of our trip to Lahore, we’ve had Pakistani-Chinese food at restaurants, dinner parties and at home. While eagerly gazing out the car window (as I typically do when abroad), I’ve noticed the growing popularity and abundance of Chinese and Thai restaurants.
The other day, we ate at a Chinese and Thai restaurant called Yum. Since then, I’ve been contemplating about those delicious fusion dishes – Spiced Lemon Chicken, Sesame Fish with Onions and Ginger, Sweet and Spicy Vegetable Cashew Chicken and several others. These were foods I’ve never tasted at restaurants in America or even in Thailand. The distinctive taste that results from combining Pakistani and Chinese flavors is really quite extraordinary; no wonder it has developed into a whole new cuisine!
Now, on to my cashew chicken recipe…
Post Yum dinner, my father-in-law commented, “acha tha” (it was good), but recalled my cashew chicken and said “woh bahut acha tha” (that was very good). His expression was so endearing that if I had access to my kitchen, I would have made him some the next day…and that too very quickly, because it’s very quick to prepare. 😀
I’ve been making this cashew chicken for quite some time. I initially adapted this recipe from Rasa Malaysia. I love her method for tenderizing the chicken – simply soak the chicken in baking soda before cooking. This raises the pH on the meat’s surface, making it more difficult for the proteins to bond excessively. The result?
Chicken that is tender, moist and almost silky.
Quick and Easy Pakistani-Style Cashew Chicken
- 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small cubes
- 3 tbsp neutral oil such as canola or grapeseed
- 3/4- inch piece ginger crushed
- 3-4 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 small green bell pepper cut into small square pieces
- 1/2 small onion cut into small square pieces
- 1/3 cup unsalted cashews
- toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp corn starch
- 1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 3 tbsp water
- 1 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/8 tsp white pepper or more to taste
- 1/8 tsp black pepper or more to taste
- 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes or more to taste
- 3/4 tsp sugar or more to taste
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- salt to taste
Place the chicken in a strainer or colander and sprinkle it with baking soda. Mix well and let this mixture marinate for about 20 minutes. Rinse the chicken thoroughly, ensuring it's completely free of any baking soda. Pat dry and marinate again in the corn starch. Set aside.
Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients listed for the sauce and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and stir-fry until it changes color and is partly-cooked. Remove the chicken and set aside.
Lower the heat, if needed, and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil into the wok and add in the garlic and ginger and sauté for 15-20 seconds. Raise the heat back up and add the onion and bell pepper. Stir-fry until you can smell the peppery aroma of the green peppers and the onions turn translucent. Add the chicken back in, followed by the prepared sauce.
Stir and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has reduced. Taste and adjust salt and spices, if desired.
Add in the cashews and mix well. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, if desired. Serve immediately with white rice.