Friday, April 27, 2012

Quinoa Taboulleh

I’ve been working with a lovely apprenticeship student this week. We were discussing the signs of hypoglycemia on the face - a white color on the bridge of the nose between the eyes - and I suggested that eating protein instead of carbs might be a good way of treating that condition. That led to a discussion of high protein foods, besides meat, and one of the foods that fits that bill is Quinoa. Now most people think of it as a grain, but it's not - it's actually a seed. It is actually a member of the Goosefoot family and related to beets and spinach and is grown primarily in the Andes. What's most incredible about this little seed is it's protein content, which is very high at 18%. It also contains lysine, calcium, phosphorus and iron.  Quinoa also has a slightly nutty flavor and I think it is also really fun to eat because it kind of pops in your mouth when you bite into it.  There are also several colors - white, red and black.  Most Quinoa sold in the US has had the Sapponin coating removed, which makes it bitter. So just in case it hasn't been removed, it is always wise to give it a quick rinse before you cook it.  And, Quinoa cooks so fast that it will be ready in as little as 15 minutes.  Sometimes I eat Quinoa with just butter and salt.  It's also a good breakfast with maple syrup and I love making Quinoa Pilaf as well.

But, for this warm and sunny day here in Seattle (yes I know you are surprised), I was in the mood for a salad and I wanted to give my student a taste of Quinoa since she had never had it before, so I made Taboulleh. I cooked the Quinoa in chicken broth to give it more flavor, but if you want to make this dish vegetarian, you can just substitute vegetable broth or even water.  This is a great salad for anyone who can't eat the usual Taboulleh, which is made with Bulgur Wheat. And Quinoa Taboulleh keeps really well and doesn't get soggy, so it's even good the next day if you want to pack it for lunch.  It's really easy to make and very satisfying and it's really good for you too!

Quinoa Taboulleh

1 cup white Quinoa
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (can also use vegetable broth or water)
3 Roma tomatoes (or one large regular tomato) cut into a small dice
1 medium Cucumber, peeled, cut in half, seeded and cut into a small dice
1/2 cup chopped mint leaves
3 - 4 green onions, cut into small pieces
1 large Meyer (or regular large lemon), juiced (equals about 1/4 cup
1/2 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove minced fine
1 - 2 teaspoons sugar (depending on the sourness of the lemon juice)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Optional:  1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

Rinse Quinoa in a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth (the seeds are very small and will slip through most strainer holes).  Put chicken broth in a pot with the Quinoa and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and let cool.

Mix lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, sugar and pepper together in a small bowl.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.  Put aside.

Mix cooled Quinoa with chopped mint leaves, green onions, tomato pieces and cucumber.  Stir in dressing and toss to coat. Let sit for 10 - 15 minutes to let flavors meld or refrigerate to serve later.

Five Element Analysis

Quinoa is a seed so that makes it a Water Food.  The chicken broth and olive oil contribute the Wood Element.  The Fire Element is represented by the tomatoes, while the Earth Element is brought in by the cucumbers.  The garlic, mint and green onion add the Metal Element  so this ends up being a surprisingly balanced dish!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fava Beans - Simple Chinese Style

Fava Beans are another food that means Spring to me. My mother and I just love them and my grandfather loved them so much that his nickname at the Original Farmer's Market in LA was Mr. Fava Bean! I guess you can picture how many fava beans I peeled and ate when I was growing up! The best ones are the small ones and you can't really tell easily how big they are when you buy them in the shells.  I look for the narrowest pods that I can find as the little ones are the most tender.

Fava Beans are also called Broad Beans or Horse Beans in other parts of the world and are quite popular in the Mediterranean countries and are even eaten raw dipped in salt. Unfortunately, some people of that region of the world have an allergy to them, but this is one of the foods that I don't have an allergy to - thank goodness! The only difficult thing is that you have to peel them first to get them out of the shell and peel them again (partially) to cook them. You just put your fingernail in the part of the bean that curves inward and pull up so that you remove the top piece where the brown line is where it attached to the outer shell.

Most recipes from other places call for shelling the Fava Beans and then boiling them for a few minutes so that they are easy to get them out of their second shell shell before using them in dishes, but that was definitely not the way the Lowe family ate them!  My grandfather insisted that we peel just the top off the second shell and assured me that they needed to be cooked within this shell or they would burn, so that's the way I do it. The second shell also tells you when they are done because the beans swell and pop out of that second shell. You don't eat that shell unless you really want to, as it comes out very crispy.  But the Fava Beans will be tender and just a bit caramelized. Instead, you pick out all the tender half beans and enjoy that wonderful flavor that only Fava Beans have....

This is actually one of the simplest recipes I will ever post, but my son asked me to do it so he would remember.  The Fava Beans are just so good with this method, which is a quick saute, that I don't even like to eat them any other way. I used an extra light olive oil as the Chinese don't like oil to have flavors except for Toasted Sesame or Chili.  And then you salt them - that's it. You really should try them this way and you will be amazed at how good they are!

Fava Beans - Simple Chinese Style

1 pound of Fava Beans, shelled from the pod and the upper part of inner shell removed (see photo)
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat a frying pan and add in oil and wait until it is hot.  Put in the Fava Beans and cook, stirring often until the shells are crisp and most of the beans have popped out of the shell. Taste a few of the larger ones to see if they are done and if not, cook for a few more minutes.  Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Five Element Analysis

Beans of all kinds belong to the Water Element and the added salt brings in even more, so this is almost completely a Water dish.  However, because the Fava Beans are green and not dried, they are also considered a Wood food as well.  So, serve in a meal with foods of the other 3 elements to create balanced meal.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Grandma Szarek's Sauerkraut

I am going to Vienna and Germany soon to teach and usually get ready by starting to eat that kind of food for a few weeks before. It helps if I prepare stomach. So, I was at the health food store and found a package of fresh sauerkraut that was calling my name. I never liked sauerkraut as a kid because it was so sour, even though my German grandmother made it many times.  It wasn't until I married the father of my children that I learned how to make Sauerkraut the German/Polish way from his grandmother.  Actually she made it two ways:  the first was with onion and apple, which tempered the sourness - that's  I the recipe here and the other was a sweet and sour version with tomato sauce - it's also delicious.  I've tried many kinds in the 15 years I've been teaching in Germany and learned to like it, but Grandma Szarek's versions are the only ones that I really love.  Sauerkraut is so good for you. Strangely, it is especially good for getting rid of canker sores and of course, for aiding digestion too.

Once I decided that I was going to make Sauerkraut, I went to the local butcher and got some smoked pork chops and a little bacon too.  I like Sauerkraut with mashed potatoes, but I have to admit that white potatoes with yellowish Sauerkraut on a white plate doesn't really look very exciting!  Luckily the smoked pork chops bring in some color.  Next time, I am going to add some chives and parsley to those potatoes. Anyway, Sauerkraut is quite easy to make.  I use white wine instead of beer because that's what my grandmother-in-law used - I think it must have been the French influence in Poland - and, the apples and onions mellow the Sauerkraut so much. The only thing that I have changed is that I add a tiny bit of cornstarch and water so that the sauce coats the Sauerkraut and makes it smoother. If you are a purist, you don't have to add it or you could use a pat of butter  or cook more bacon in it or add some other fatty pork in instead.  I steamed the smoked pork chop on top instead of pan frying them and it was a wonderful German-Polish dinner!

Grandma Szarek's Sauerkraut

2 heaping cups of Fresh Sauerkraut, preferably unsterilized, rinsed and drained
2 slices of raw bacon, cut up into small pieces with scissors
Extra Oil if necessary
1 medium onion, minced fine
1 medium sweet apple, peeled, seeded and minced fine (I used a Fuji)
1 cup white wine (I used a Reisling)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
4 cloves
2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with enough water to make a slurry
Salt and Pepper to taste

Put bacon in a large pot and cook until the fat renders.  There should be about 2 Tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan.  If not, add extra oil.  Then put in onion and apple and cook until soft.  Add in white wine and chicken broth and bring to a boil, then put in Sauerkraut and bring back to a boil.  Turn down heat and put the bay leaf on top with the cloves on top of that.  Simmer for about 20 minutes and remove bay leaf and cloves.  If using smoked pork chops or sausage, stir Sauerkraut and place on top and steam for an additional 10 minutes.  Remove and add in the cornstarch slurry. Season to taste with salt, if neccessary (I usually don't add it) and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper.

Five Element Analysis

Cabbage is an Earth food and the mashed potatoes are Earthy too. But Sauerkraut is also fermented so that it becomes more of a Wood food and the chicken broth contributes even more, making this a very Wood dish.  The white wine and apple bring in the Fire Element, whereas the bay leaf and cloves bring in just a bit of the Metal Element and the onion adds even more. The Water Element is found only in the small amount of bacon and needs support, so serving it with a smoked pork chop or sausages that are Water meats makes this a very balanced meal!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mint Chimichurri/Chutney

I’ve gotten several requests for the Mint Chimichurri sauce that my son and I created to serve for our Easter lunch.  So here it is. We made this because Stephen loves lamb and really wanted to have it the English fashion with Mint Jelly.  But of course, we didn’t have any mint jelly as I forgot to buy it, but we always have fresh mint so this sauce was born.  Now, I have to admit that it is not my favorite meat. But, we marinated it overnight and it turned out wonderfully.  Stephen loves Chimichurri sauce since he grew up with Argentinian friends who regularly served a wonderful version at their family barbecues. It is usually made from a combination of Olive Oil, Garlic, Parsley, Oregano, Red Wine Vinegar and some red chili flakes.  We decided to do a fusion sauce and bring in a Serrano Chili instead and added a shallot because we like the flavor so much.  Our sauce ended up almost like an Indian Mint Chutney, but without the Cilantro and Ginger. So if you want to add those, be sure to use the lime. In any case, it was a delicious accompaniment to the lamb and I want to try it next on some baked fish. 

Mint Chimichurri Sauce

1 ½ cups of fresh mint leaves, stripped from the stem
1 small Serrano chili, seeded and minced
1 small shallot, chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar (can also use lime/lemon juice)
½  teaspoon sugar or more (depending on the sourness of the vinegar or lime juice)
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Five Element Analysis

Mint is primarily thought to belong to the Metal Element as it has such a lovely pungent aroma, but it also has some of the Wood Element too as it grows so fast.  The garlic and onions add more Metal, whereas the Red Wine Vinegar or Lime Juice brings in more of the Wood Element.  So, this is primarily a Wood and Metal condiment and very helpful in balancing other elements in a meal.  We served it with Roast Leg of Lamb, which is a Fire Food and Roasted Potatoes, which are an Earth Food and an Asparagus Salad dressed with Sesame Oil and Tamari, which brought in the Water Elements to create a balanced meal.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chinese Asparagus Salad

I served this lovely Chinese Asparagus Salad as part of our Easter meal and I wasn’t going to post it because it is so incredibly easy.  But my son Stephen asked me to so he could remember how to make it again. I used to eat this a lot as a child as my Grandfather made it a lot.  I’ve never lost my taste for it and it’s actually my favorite way of eating asparagus, as it is so crunchy and fresh tasting.  It’s strangely addictive as everyone keeps on going back for more.  There’s just something about the dressing that works so well with the barely cooked asparagus. It is also so fast to make that you can have it ready in less than 15 minutes – the thing that takes the longest is waiting for the water to boil!  Make sure not to cook the asparagus too long.  The best thing about this salad is that it is crunchy. This salad may surprise you - it’s simply delicious and a wonderful spring treat.

Chinese Asparagus Salad

1 pound of Asparagus Stalks, bottom inch or two cut off, then cut into thirds (preferably on a diagonal) 
2 Tablespoons Tamari
1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Seed Oil
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Seeds

Mix Tamari, Sesame Oil and sugar.  Boil about 4 cups water in a pot and put in asparagus for one minute.  Drain and toss with sauce.  Refrigerate until ready to serve and then sprinkle with Sesame Seeds.

Five Element Analysis

Asparagus clearly belongs to the Wood Element and the Tamari, Sesame Oil and Sesame Seeds contribute the Water Element.  There’s only a hint of sugar so the Earth Element is represented but only barely. So, this is a salad that belongs to a part of a bigger meal and is good for contributing the Wood and Water Elements. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Pavlovas with Rose Cream and Strawberries

Happy Spring!  And Happy Easter too if you are celebrating it. My son Stephen and I made a lovely lunch that featured many spring foods. We had a small Roast Leg of Lamb with a Mint Chimichurri sauce, Asparagus, Roasted New Potatoes and for dessert we made Pavlovas with Rosewater and fresh strawberries.  The Pavlovas were divine! So that’s why I’m sharing that recipe with you today. I first had a Pavlova in New Zealand and they swear that they invented it, not the Australians, but it doesn’t matter to me as it is a wonderful dessert no matter where it came from. My friend’s Pavlova was a huge meringue topped with lots of sweetened whipped cream and a mound of fresh kiwi fruit (naturally), strawberries and blueberries. I loved it! I was trying to think of a gluten free dessert and I decided to finally try my hand at making meringues. They have always intimidated me, although I discovered they are really very easy – they just take patience. The good news is that they can be made one day ahead and so can the whipped cream and strawberries, so all that’s required when you make the dessert is to assemble the ingredients and serve it.  

The basic recipe for the meringue comes from, but I added Rosewater to the meringues and to the whipped cream and the strawberries as well to give it a lovely perfume and a slightly exotic flavor.  I always have Rose Water on hand because I use it to clean my face – a Pakistani friend gave me that wonderful tip years ago. I buy food grade Rose Water at the local Indian store. I often forget to use it in cooking, but one of my favorite candies is a Persian Rose Water Nougat with pistachios.  So when I added the Rose Water to the whipped cream, I recreated that wonderful flavor. All I needed was some pistachios, which I will be sure to use next time. The Rose Water gives this dessert a delicate perfume and I think it really enhances the flavor of the strawberries too. And you know what?  I think I created my favorite dessert of all time and it was easy and beautiful too!

Pavlovas with Rosewater Cream and Strawberries

For the Meringue

2 large egg whites at room temperature for 30 minutes
6 Tablespoons Sugar
¾ teaspoon cornstarch
¼ teaspoon white wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon Rosewater

Put the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 275 degrees.  Line a large baking pan with a Silpat mat.  Cut out 6 circles of parchment papers, each 2 ½ inches wide (use a teacup to measure and trace with a pencil).  Turn over and put on cookie sheet space a few inches apart. 

Put egg whites in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks begin to form.  Add the sugar and cornstarch (while the beater is still running) and beat until glossy peaks form (this takes a long time).  Beat in the vinegar and Rosewater.  Spoon meringue onto parchment circles evenly.  Bake the meringues until dry to the touch – about 20 minutes.  Then turn off the oven and stick a wooden spoon in the door to hold the door open.  Leave the meringues in the oven for one hour.  Store in a plastic bag that closes on a plate and store at room temperature until ready to use.

For Strawberries:

1 16 oz container of fresh strawberries
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Rosewater

Wash strawberries and remove stems.  Cut into ½ if small and quarters if large.  Take 5 or 6 strawberries and mash them to develop more liquid. Mix all the strawberries with Sugar and Rosewater and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to ½ hour to let juices develop.  They can also be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to serve. 

For Whipped Cream:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 ½ Tablespoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Rosewater

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and beat until soft peaks form.  Refrigerate until ready to use.


Place Meringue (with the parchment removed) on a small dessert plate and put a large dollop of whipped cream on top.  Place a big spoonful of strawberries on top of that and drizzle it all with some of the strawberry juice on the bottom of the bowl.  Serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Eggs belong to the Water Element so that element is covered.  The Rosewater and Strawberries add lots of the Fire Element.  The Whipped Cream contributes the Metal Element and there’s lots of sugar so the Earth Element makes a strong appearance too.  Only the Wood Element needs support, as there is only the tiniest bit of vinegar.  So serve this dessert after you have had a main course that includes the Wood Element protein or vegetable.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Vegetarian Potstickers

A friend of mine wanted to learn how to make a filling for potstickers that was vegetarian.  I really like vegetarian potstickers.  The trick for me is to make them have their own interesting flavor and not just try to make the filling a substitute for meat.  So, you have to highlight something - in this case the Shitake mushroom as it is not only an ingredient in the dish, it also perfumes the cooking liquid.  I like using baby Bok Choy leaves as they have a nice green color and I put in pressed tofu  

 I always make my vegetarian potstickers in a half moon shape to distinguish them from the other kinds.  It also makes them so much easier to assemble and it goes really fast.  I like to serve them with Banana Sauce (also known as Banana Kechup) from the Phillipines.  It has a wonderful tangy and slightly spicy flavor that goes so well with these kinds of potstickers.  Of course, the usual dipping sauce is very good, but be sure to add some Chili Garlic Sauce or Chili Oil to it to spice it up. You might find that you like these even more than the meat filled ones - they are really good!

Vegetarian Potstickers

4 cups baby Bok Choy leaves chopped (can also use Napa Cabbage)
12 oz Pressed Tofu minced (or use 1 carton of Extra Firm Tofu, drained and crumbled)
4 green onions, ends trimmed and chopped into small pieces
6 -8  Shitake Mushrooms, rehydrated in 1 cup of hot water for 20 – 30 minutes, then minced  - reserve soaking liquid
3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
¼ teaspoon Black Pepper

2 packages Gyoza Wrappers (I like the Extra Thick kind)
2 Tablespoons Cooking Oil per pan of potstickers
¼ cup mushroom soaking liquid for each pan of potstickers

In a large bowl, put in the tofu and add Soy Sauce and Sesame Oil.  Mix thoroughly. Add the Bok Choy, green onions, Shitake Mushrooms and Pepper.  Mix thoroughly.  Lay wax paper on a cookie tray.  Using one wrapper at a time, put in one Tablespoon of filling.  Put water all around the rim of the wrapper with your finger and press to seal to make into a half moon.  Continue making potstickers until all filling is used up.  These can now be frozen for later use – freeze directly on the cookie tray or on a plate and then remove and put into plastic freezer bags.  Or, if you want to cook them immediately:

Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan.  Put in as many potstickers as you can without them touching.  Pan fry until lightly browned.  Turn and brown other side.  Pour in ¼ cup of the mushroom soaking liquid and cover.  Steam until liquid is almost gone – do not lower the heat.  Take the lid off and cook, turning once until the liquid is evaporated. Put on a serving plate and serve with dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce – 2 Tablespooons Soy Sauce mixed with 1 Tablespoon Seasoned Rice Vinegar.

You can also serve with Philippine Banana Sauce, Thai Sweet Chili Sauce or Sriracha Sauce.

Five Element Analysis

The Potsticker wrappers are made from wheat flour, which belongs to the Wood Element and the Bok Choy adds even more so that element is fully covered.  Tofu contributes the Metal Element as so does the green onions.  The soy sauce, sesame oil and Shitake mushrooms bring in the Water Element.  And the black pepper adds just a tiny bit of the Fire Element and the Earth Element is missing.  So, if you use the Phillipine Banana Sauce or Thai Sweet Chili Sauce, you are adding both Earth and Fire Elements and that makes this snack more balanced.

Friday, April 6, 2012

My Mother's Crunchy Cabbage Kimchi

I was teaching a friend the other day how to make vegetarian potstickers (that recipe I will post tomorrow) and it left half of a big Napa Cabbage unused and the part that was left was the bottom half composed of the white part of the stalk. So, in order not to waste that much cabbage, I decided to make Kimchi.  Now, I happen to like my Kimchi crunchy so using the stalks is my best solution for using up something that might other go to compost and to give me the crunchiest Kimchi.  Most commercial Kimchi uses more of the leaves. So, I called my Mom to get her recipe again as I forget the proportions and her instructions weren't very clear - it's hard to pinpoint the amounts when they are give to you as a pinch of this and a hunk of that....  The most important information I got was that she used to use dried shrimp until I became allergic to it so her Korean friend told her to use fish sauce instead and to use more than a little because that seafood Umami flavor underlies the Kimchi's flavor. Now if you want to be even more authentic, please add the shrimp, but my allergy is also why I need to make my Kimchi unless I read the labels of the store bought kind very very carefully.  Also, I can make it more or less spicy or more or less garlicky.  I like having that kind of leeway and food always tastes better homemade.  

A few notes:  I only leave the Kimchi out to ferment for 2 days in a cool place (only for a day if it is hot weather) but if you like a more sour taste, you can go even a few more days before you refrigerate it.  I also recommend glass jars as the chili powder definitely stains plastic containers and I'm just not sure if you want to ferment food in plastic. I don't like to salt it too much as you can always add more salt if you want when you serve it.  I wrote before (in the Radish Kimchi post) about how amazing and wonderful Kimchi is for you health so I won't say it again.  But if you like Kimchi, try making it at home - it's fun and so delicious too.  So here is my Mom's recipe for Kimchi that I've adapted for you.

Crunchy Cabbage Kimchi

Bottom Half of Napa Cabbage – end trimmed off and cut into 2 inch pieces (or use 1/2 of the cabbage including the leafy part)
4 cups water
3 Tablespoons Salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch chunk of ginger, peeled and minced -squeezed in a garlic press to extract juice
2 Tablespoons Fish Sauce (can also substitute dried shrimp or shrimp paste)
3 Tablespoons Korean Chili Powder
4 green onions, trimmed and cut into 2 inch lengths
5 inch piece of Daikon Radish, peeled sliced into matchstick pieces or grated
½ teaspoon sugar

Optional:  2 Carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into matchstick pieces

Mix salt and water in a large bowl or pot.  Soak cabbage in the salted water for 4 – 5 hours.  Drain and squeeze dry.  Mix the other ingredients together in the bowl, add cabbage and rub the spiced mixture into the cabbage with your hands.  Pack into a large glass jar (or two smaller ones - I used an old pickle jar) and pack down to remove air bubbles and put the cap on.  Let sit for 2 days in a cool place (1 day if it is very warm) and then put into the refrigerator.  Kimchi can be eaten immediately, but is better after a few days.  It will keep for months, but will get stronger tasting over time and then is better added into dishes rather than eating it by itself.

Five Element Analysis

Fermented things are sour so they belong to the Wood Element. The Chili Powder adds the Fire Element.  The Napa Cabbage and carrots, if you use them, bring in the Earth Element.  The Daikon radish, the green onions, garlic and ginger add the Metal Element and the Salt and Fish Sauce contribute the Water Element  Guess what?  This is a pretty balanced food all by itself!  And, it is so good for your digestion and protective for your immune system, you should add it to your diet for health reasons alone!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Thai Cashew Chicken

I've been testing recipes for my upcoming Thai cooking class and one of the requested recipes is Cashew Chicken.  I don't usually measure when I cook as that is how I was taught and you learn after a while that dishes should taste a certain way so you adjust as you go.  But, that's not very useful when teaching a class or writing a food blog!  So, when I say I am testing recipes, what I am really doing is using measuring spoons and cups to figure out how much of something I actually use.

Anyway, Cashew Chicken is a big favorite at Thai restaurants, but it is really a Chinese stir-fry dish that the Chinese immigrants in Thailand adapted.  The addition of fish sauce is the biggest difference in ingredients as it is something the Chinese wouldn't use.  This is a super fast dish to prepare as long as you remember to marinate the chicken ahead of time.  I like to marinate it over night for the best flavor, but up until 1/2 hour is also acceptable.  The main flavoring ingredient is actually oyster sauce and for those of you who are scared to use it, oyster sauce is actually one of the main flavoring components in pan fried noodles and many stir fried beef recipes.  It doesn't really taste like oysters, it actually tastes somewhat sweet and you don't use very much.  But, it has such an amazing Umami flavor!  Also, you don't want to use Cashew nuts that are already toasted very much. I buy mine at the Asian grocery store and they are obviously toasted, but very lightly.  I also use a lot of cashews as I really like their texture in this dish. You can make this dish spicy if you like by adding sliced chiles or chili flakes, but I prefer it to just be savory.  You can also add other vegetables if you like such as asparagus and some restaurants put in basil.  I prefer to serve it with another green vegetable on the side.

Thai Cashew Chicken

8 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1/2 cubes
2 Tablespoons Shaoshing Rice Wine
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce or Tamari
1/2 onion, trimmed, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 red pepper, trimmed and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 large garlic clove minced
1 teaspoon Fish Sauce
1 Tablespoon Oyster Sauce
2 Tablespoons Hot Water
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 cup cashews
1 teaspoon cornstarch and enough cold water to make a slurry
Pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil

Optional:  1/2 teaspoon chili flakes or one Thai chili, sliced into rings

Marinate the chicken in the Rice Wine and Soy Sauce (or Tamari) overnight or for at least 1/2 hour.  When ready to cook, put the Fish Sauce, Oyster Sauce, hot water, sugar and pepper into a small bowl and mix.

Heat a frying pan or wok.  Toast the cashews until they are lightly browned and remove to a plate.  Then add in oil and onions and cook until translucent.  Add in the garlic and red pepper and stir until onions are lightly browned.  Move the vegetables aside and put in chicken.  Let cook on one side until lightly browned and then turn over.  Let cook a bit longer and then start to stir fry the dish. Pour in the sauce and bring to a boil. Add in the cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened.  Put in cashews and toss to coat.  Serve immediately with rice.

Five Element Analysis

Cashews belong to the Water Element and the Fish Sauce, Soy Sauce and Oyster Sauce bring in even more.  But the Umami flavor of the sauces also contributes some of the Metal Element and the onions, garlic and rice make sure that element is fully represented.  Chicken contributes the Wood Element and Red Pepper adds the Fire Element and so does any chili you might want to add.  I think it would be a more attractive meal if you add something green like basil or asparagus, but what this really needs is a contribution from the Earth Element so I would serve it with some stir fried cabbage to make it balanced.