There's a small Asian grocer not far from where I work. It's a landmark for me--it's been in that same spot for as long as I can remember. Even before I cared enough to read the street signs, I knew where I was when I saw the Asian market. It family owned shop, with over-stuffed aisles and at least ten different types of coconut milk, more than seven colors of curry paste, and a case of vegetables that can't be found anywhere else in town. (Edit: when my Dad read this post, he reminded me that there's a whole wall of different types of rice noodles, and buckets of live crabs). When I was young, the shop owners ran a restaurant next door. It was cheap, saucy, full of umami, and felt like the real-deal. I didn't recognize half of the things on the menu (that added to the effect) and ordered the same thing every week for the first decade of my life: Cashew Chicken.
Then one day, when I was still in elementary school, I asked for my usual, and the shop owner refused to take my order. He threw down his pen. "Look kid," he said in a thick accent, "you order the same thing every time! This time, you must try something different". My dad looked at me, and nodded in agreement. I was instantly stressed. How could I choose anything other than Cashew Chicken?! I looked at the rest of the menu for the first time in my life. That was the day a new era began. (That new era was the era of the Spring Roll, and for the next decade of my life, I only ordered Spring Rolls from that little restaurant). (They were really good Spring Rolls). (And that was really good Cashew Chicken).
In recent years, the little shop and restaurant have changed hands. I don't visit it regularly anymore, unless I need something special, and that familiar man who made my Cashew Chicken from scratch for years is just a memory now. This recipe brings that memory to life in full swing: the vegetables are crisp and lightly blanched, the cashews are toasted and crunchy, and it's all smothered in a nutty savory sauce. Instead of serving this over rice, I serve it in cabbage cups, making it a grain-free meal. In place of store-bought hoisin sauce, I make my own paleo version. This recipe only uses 1 skillet, and goes from chopping board to fork in no more than 30 minutes.
Serves: 5-7 | Total Time:
- 1 pound chicken breast, cubed (Tip: ask your butcher to do this for you!)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 small white onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
- 2 cups snow peas
- 1 cup carrots, julienned
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
- 1 8-ounce can bamboo shoots, strained
- 1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, strained
- 2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce OR Worcestershire Sauce Paleo Hoisin Sauce:
- 1/4 cup soy sauce OR coconut aminos
- 1 tablespoon sunflower seed butter
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar OR rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce To serve:
- 1/3 cup whole unsalted cashews
- 1 small head savory cabbage
- Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, garlic, and ginger.
- When the ginger is fragrant and starting to brown, add the chicken. Allow the chicken to brown on each side, stirring only occasionally. While the chicken cooks, stir together the the ingredients for the hoisin sauce.
- Sprinkle the arrowroot powder into the skillet and stir so that is coats the chicken. Add the vegetables, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts to the skillet, along with the fish sauce/Worcestershire Sauce and Paleo Hoisin Sauce, and cover. Stir well, so sauce is well distributed. Cook for 3-5 minutes, just until the vegetables are tender.
- Sprinkle in the cashews, and red chili flakes. Carefully peal individual leaves from the head of cabbage. Wash and pat dry. Arrange the cabbage cups on serving plates and fill with a scoop of cashew chicken. Serve with a drizzle of Sriracha and chopsticks.