I love Thai food. This year the boyfriend and I were lucky enough to spend time in Thailand as part of our six months travelling and the food was an absolute highlight. Strong, pungent, heady and tangy. The all important balance of salty, spicy, sweet and sour. A multitude of colours on your plate that promise a burst of flavour with every bite. Sometimes I wish I could be teleported back to a street side in Bangkok where the pavements are filled with vendors offering every variety of Thai delicacy you could imagine.
We did a cooking class in the gorgeous city of Chiang Mai, one of the most culturally significant places in northern Thailand. The area is famous for its cooking classes and I was so excited to learn the secrets of this gorgeous cuisine. We learnt to cook a range of delicious dishes including this classic; stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts or kai pad med mamuang as it’s called in Thai.
This dish is actually Chinese in origin but it’s now ubiquitous in Thailand and has its own Thai stamp on it. It’s very easy to make and very nutritious so it’s perfect for a midweek pick-me-up. Especially as, in the UK, summer seems to have ended with winter come early, so this dish is great if you need warming up.
This recipe doesn’t require any ingredients that are too exotic. Oyster sauce you should be able to get in large supermarkets or an Asian supermarket if you’re lucky enough to have one nearby. Thai chilli paste, or Nam Prik Pao, may be harder to get hold of (again you’ll find it at an Asian supermarket) but just up the chillies if you can’t find it.
I used palm sugar which I’d bought back from Cambodia and this is the type of sugar used in cooking throughout Southeast Asia, but replace with brown sugar if you don’t have it.
2 chicken breasts
3 cloves of garlic
1 large red chilli
2 handfuls of baby corn
1 red pepper
1 small-medium onion
2 spring onions
1 big handful unsalted cashew nuts
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons of Thai chilli paste
2 teaspoons palm sugar
3 tablespoons water
Sunflower oil, for frying
Chop the chicken into thin slices, and finely slice the garlic and chilli, then set aside. Chop the pepper and baby corn into matchsticks and slice the spring onions into chunks. Half the onion and then roughly slice into crescents.
Mix the oyster sauce, soy sauces, fish sauce, Thai chilli paste, palm sugar and water in a cup. Try it and if you want it hotter add more chilli paste (bearing in mind you’re adding a fresh chilli!), if you want it saltier add more fish and/or soy sauce. If you like it sweeter add a bit more sugar.
Once you have all your ingredients prepared and ready to go, the rest happens very quickly. Heat up a wok and put a splash of oil in there. Get it nice and hot and then throw in your cashew nuts. Toss them around so they toast up and go brown, taking care not to let them burn, and then remove from the wok and set aside.
Add a splash more oil, about 2 tablespoons, and let it warm up. Throw in the chicken, chilli and garlic and let it sizzle. Keep it on a high heat so it cooks quickly but take care not to let it burn or catch.
Just before the chicken is fully cooked, add all the vegetables except the spring onions. Again leave the heat on high and stir quickly. Add the cashew nuts, followed by the sauce ingredients. Keep all the ingredients moving until the sauce has thickened slightly and the chicken, cashews and veg are coated.
Serve immediately with rice or noodles.
- Serves 2 very hungry people or 3 smaller appetites