Springfield-style cashew chicken — or, if you live in Southwest Missouri, simply, cashew chicken — is the last dish you might expect a good Methodist family to eat the night before Christmas.
No turkey and casseroles. No prime rib and Yorkshire pudding. No chili and mulled wine (though that does sound like a New Year’s Eve tradition I might have to start this year). We go straight for the oyster sauce-smothered bites of fried chicken that is easily the bestselling dish at every Chinese restaurant in the general radius of the biggest city near my small Missouri hometown.
The original cashew chicken came from a restaurant called Leong’s Asian Food, which now sells a pre-made version of the sauce online ($4.59 for 12 oz., leongsasianfoods.com). But we’ve always enjoyed making it at home, when there are enough hands to lighten the work.
All that dipping in flour and eggs can make for quite the mess, not to mention standing by the stove to fry about three batches of chicken. But even the cooks (it’s helpful to have one person toss the chicken in the eggs and flour, and another person frying) don’t seem to mind when it’s time to slather on that salty sauce and pile on the chopped green onions and crunchy cashews.
Sometimes, we’ll add a side dish of steamed broccoli so it doesn’t feel too decadent. You could also fry pieces of tofu or, if you have it, use up some of the peanut oil from the fried turkey. A deep fryer could be handy here, but we use a large skillet.
(Note: This post is part of an ongoing series called Austin360Cooks in which we invite readers to share what they are cooking at home. Add #Austin360Cooks to your posts on social media to participate, and each week, we run one submission in the print food section of the Austin American-Statesman.)
Springfield-style cashew chicken
2 Tbsp. milk
3-5 cups flour
4-6 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
4-6 cups vegetable oil, for frying
For the sauce:
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
3-4 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup cashew nuts, for garnish
1 bunch chopped green onions, for garnish
Cooked rice, for serving
Whisk egg with milk in one bowl and place flour in another. Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large wok or skillet.
In batches, dip the chicken pieces in the flour, then the egg wash and then the flour again. Using tongs, place the chicken in the oil, but don’t overcrowd the pan. Fry the chicken until golden brown and place on a paper towel. Repeat with remaining chicken, adding more oil and keeping the oil hot.
To make the sauce, whisk together oyster sauce, soy sauce and 1 1/2 cups water in a small saucepan over low heat. Bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water and slowly add to the saucepan. The sauce should be almost as thick as the plain oyster sauce, but not as strong in flavor. (Note: You can make the sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator if you’re frying the chicken the next day.)
Serve with green onions, cashews and rice. Serves six.
— Adapted from a recipe by Sis Ann Broyles