This classic Cantonese Chicken, Snow Pea & Cashew Stir-fry, strikes just the right balance of flavor & texture: snow peas, water chestnuts & cashew for crunch & crispness; slippery, squidgy mushrooms with their usual earthiness; just the right balance of garlic & ginger; subtle smokiness of dry sherry & everything all cloaked in a perfectly balanced oyster sauce mix.
The trick to mastering an exceptional stir-fry is both restraint & preparation. Restraint because you need to pick one or two vegetables to showcase in the stir-fry, no more. Too many & you overcrowd the wok, flavors become muddled & textures are ruined. Preparation because you want to have all your prep work done ahead of time as a stir-fry comes together fast. Have everything, even the sauce mixture, prepped & the rice cooked.
Then you add embellishments – nuts, water chestnuts, crunchy noodles, green onions but only after everything is cooked. And once you know how to make a good stir-fry the options are limitless for ingredients you can swap out.
Most times I will add mushrooms to a stir-fry because my husband loves them.
Generally I use dried shiitake mushrooms, soak them for 20 minutes in boiling water, drain them then remove the stems. They’re not necessary to a stir-fry but they impart a flavor & texture that nothing else does & they’re certainly a classic ingredient in a standard Cantonese stir-fry recipe.
Stir-fries are fairly inexpensive to make, especially once you have the basic ingredients on hand. In a classic stir-fry like this use oyster sauce, not soy; sherry or Chinese cooking wine; ginger – the leftovers which can be frozen; chicken thighs, not breasts; cornstarch for thickening & a crisp veggie or two. And a word on oyster sauce: there’s only one I use because after trying several over the years it’s the best – Lee Kum Kee’s oyster sauce has the right blend of saltiness & caramel flavor. It’s available in the Asian aisle in good grocery stores & in Asian markets. It will keep forever in the fridge. And it’s not fishy. For me, it’s what makes this stir-fry taste so traditional.
- 12 dried Chinese (shiitake) mushrooms
- 3 tablespoons dry sherry
- 1 lb (453g) skinless, boneless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch (cornflour)
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon canola (or peanut) oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 oz (113g) snow peas, topped & tailed
- 8 oz (226g) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
- 1/3 cup toasted, unsalted cashews
- Cover mushrooms with boiling water in a small, heat resistant bowl. Let stand 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are softened; drain. Cut stems from the mushrooms & discard; slice caps in half or quarters if the caps are large.
- Combine sherry & chicken in a medium bowl and set aside. Combine the cornstarch, broth, oyster sauce and sesame oil in a measuring jug; set aside.
- Heat a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the canola oil, ginger and garlic and stir-fry for about 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the chicken mixture and stir-fry for 5 to 6 minutes until lightly browned & cooked.
- Add the peas, water chestnuts, mushrooms & broth mixture and stir-fry for about 2 to 3 minutes or until snow peas are crisp & bright green.
- Add cashews and stir-fry until combined. Sprinkle with green onions just before serving. Serves 4.