When it comes to Thai food, the cuisine ranks among the top of our ethnic food preferences. This classic from Milk Street, Thai Stir-Fried Chicken with Cashews raised the bar as the best version we’ve made at home. We pretty much followed the recipe to a T, except exchanging a medium-large red pepper in place of the small one. Oh, and of course we increased the amount of cashews 😉
Milk Street’s version uses mostly pantry staples and can be on the table in about 30 minutes. The chicken marinates for 15 minutes before cooking, and you can prep the bell pepper and scallions in the meantime. Serve the stir-fry with steamed jasmine rice.
Tip: Don’t discard the marinade after draining the chicken. It’s mixed with ¼ cup water and becomes a sauce that lightly coats the chicken and vegetables.
With stir-fries, most commonly we use our carbon steel wok, but our large cast-iron skillet happened to be sitting on the stovetop that evening, so it became the vehicle of choice. Choose your weapon—I mean skillet—according to your own preference, but don’t use a non-stick otherwise the chicken won’t brown well, if at all.
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
¼ cup water
2 Tbsp. peanut oil
1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths; save some thinly sliced greens for garnish
1/2 cup roasted cashews, more for garnish if desired
In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch, pepper flakes and ¾ teaspoon white pepper. Stir in the chicken, then marinate at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
Drain the chicken in a fine mesh strainer set over a medium bowl, pressing the chicken to remove excess marinade. Stir ¼ cup water into the marinade and set aside.
In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until barely smoking. Add the chicken in an even layer, then cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
Stir in the bell pepper, scallions and cashews. Stir the marinade mixture to recombine, add to the pan and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Cook, stirring often, until the liquid thickens and clings to the chicken, about 2 minutes.
I must admit, neither of us had ever heard of this dish, but when we saw the recipe with an accompanying gorgeous photo, it certainly caught our attention. Geng Dang Muu was featured in an article highlighting Chef Parnass Savang in a recent Bon Apppétit magazine. It apparently originated from Savang’s Laos grandmother where the curry and ground pork reference the origins of the dish, while the brussels sprouts and leeks are a nod to the local ingredients of Georgia.
Lime leaves aren’t the easies product to locate. We happened to have some in our freezer bought years ago at Wegmans for, get this, $39.99 a pound! Once we got over the initial shock and realized we only needed a minute amount, the real cost was only $2.50 an ounce—and we still have some.
Palm sugar is a sweetener that is made from the sap present in the flower buds of the coconut palm tree. It is known as natural sugar because it involves minimum processing and no chemicals are used. In the stores, palm sugar is available in the block/cones, granular and liquid form.
A few takeaways here. First, the color of our Muu was a light beigy-orange, unlike the magazine photo which was a deep reddish-orange. I believe that was due to the different brands of red curry (we had made our own a while ago). The magazine image also showed a more brothy finish, but because we reduced ours longer, it was thicker.
And if you have diners who can’t tolerate Brussels sprouts, go ahead and switch them out for broccoli or another veg to their liking. Even though it’s not indicated in the directions below, or our photos, if you do go with the sprouts, slice each half down further to 1/4″ half moons. When only halved, they did not get cooked through and were somewhat too firm.
For even more depth of flavor, cook your jasmine rice in homemade chicken stock.
Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet, preferably high-sided, over medium-high. Add leek, season lightly with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of it is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; wipe out skillet.
Pour another 2 Tbsp. oil into same skillet over medium-high. Cook Brussels sprouts, in a single layer, undisturbed, until golden brown underneath, about 3 minutes. Turn over and cook until other side is browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl with leek.
Wipe out skillet and heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil (still over medium-high). Add curry paste, palm sugar, 2 tsp. fish sauce, and 3 whole lime leaves. Cook, stirring often, until paste darkens slightly, about 1 minute.
Add pork and cook, stirring and breaking up, until in small pieces, about 2 minutes (pork doesn’t need to be fully cooked at this point). Pour coconut milk into skillet and reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until pork is cooked through and curry thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.
Remove skillet from heat and stir in Thai basil, leek and Brussels sprouts. Scatter remaining thinly sliced lime leaf over and serve with rice.