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Thai Cashew Chicken
The Thai stir-fried cashew chicken, or gai pad med mamuang himmaphan, that home cook and food blogger Rawadee Yenchujit taught us in her Bangkok kitchen was a revelation. Deliciously filled with contrasting tastes and textures and with balanced savoriness, sweetness and spice plus loads of umami, it bore little resemblance to the goopy, sugary dish Thai restaurants tend to serve in the U.S. We opted to skip shallow-frying the chicken as we were taught in Bangkok, and instead stir-fry it in batches, which requires a fraction of the oil. We also chose to include onion and scallions as the only vegetables, allowing the chicken and cashews to be front and center. We tried to do without Thai chili paste, or chili “jam”—nam prik pao, in Thai—but we discovered it’s an important element in the stir-fry. The mixture is thick, dark red and rather oily. Made by blending fried shallots, garlic, dried chilies, shrimp paste, tamarind and other ingredients, the paste is intensely and inimitably flavorful. Thai Kitchen roasted chili paste is sold in small jars in the international aisle of most supermarkets. Whole árbol chilies bring spiciness and aroma that supplements the red pepper flakes, but they’re optional, so feel free to leave them out. Steamed jasmine rice is the perfect accompaniment.
tablespoons soy sauce, divided
tablespoons all-purpose flour