Spicy Thai Cashew Chicken and Sichuan Saison
Winter is the perfect time to kick up the spice level in your kitchen. This month’s First Friday Food Pairing matches up our latest beer release, the Sichuan Saison, with a classic Thai street food, spicy cashew chicken. If you’re not a fan of too much spice don’t worry, this dish is easy to adjust so there is just the right amount of spice for you. Let’s get into it!
The Sichuan Saison is a recipe we have been working to perfect for the last few years and is one of my favorite beers to pair with food. It is a French style Saison, which makes the base beer dry, peppery and effervescent. This lays the foundation to incorporate some interesting Chinese flavors that you typically only find in food. We add a mix of Sichuan peppercorns, a house blend of Chinese 5 spice, and fresh orange peel. The beer bursts with fresh citrus aromatics with toasted spice notes in the background. It is a super flavorful beer but still balanced. While most people think that Sichuan peppercorns are spicy, they actually have no heat at all! They are typically used in spicy Sichuan style cooking to counter-balance the spice because of their unique mouth numbing quality. The effect is subtle in the beer but if you pay attention after having a few sips you will notice a cool tingling sensation in your mouth. This is why I love pairing this beer with spicy food, it helps to physically alleviate some of the sting associated with spicy peppers while the bright effervescence helps scrub out more intense flavors to get you ready for the next bite.
Thai is a go-to food style for me to cook at home. When you get right down to it its not that complicated at all to make and is full of flavor. A lot of Thai street food involves a bunch of veggies, chicken, and a quick stir fry with garlic, chilis and an easy to make sauce with a few ingredients. Cashew chicken adds some more depth of flavor from stir frying the cashews and chilis in oil before the chicken and veggies. You can control the spice level by adding more, or less chopped red chilis but definitely use caution before biting into a whole dried chili pepper! They’re more for garnish (and for adding flavor to the frying oil) than for eating whole. Although it is a good way to bump up the heat while you’re eating.
- 1lb Chicken Thighs – Cut into small chunks
- Flour – Enough to lightly coat the chicken
- Vegetable or peanut oil – For frying
- 2 Tbsp garlic – crushed and minced
- 1 Dried Thai Chili Pepper – Minced (1/4 to ½ of this if you want less spice)
- 1 Medium Yellow onion – Thinly sliced
- 1 Red Pepper – Thinly Julienned
- 1 Green Pepper – Thinly Julienned
- ½ Cup Dried Thai Red Chilis – Whole
- 1 Cup Raw Unsalted Cashews
- ½ Cup Green onions – Chopped
- 2 Tbsp Light Soy Sauce
- 1 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
- 1Tbsp Oyster Sauce
- 6 Tbsp Chicken Stock
- ½ tsp Corn Starch
- Black Pepper – pinch
- Salt – pinch
- Sugar – pinch
Start by mixing up all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl. Set aside while you prep the other ingredients. The big thing with Thai stir fry is that all the ingredients should be chopped and prepped ahead of time and ready to throw in the wok (or pan) once it’s fired up. Its all about getting the timing right so that everything is cooked quickly and not overcooked. After everything is chopped and in a bowl you’re ready to pour 1/3 cup of your oil into the pan and set to medium-high heat.
When the oil is hot, throw in the cashews and stir constantly. You want them to just start to turn golden brown, then pull them out quickly (they go from perfect to burned in no time flat). Next throw in the whole dried chilis and fry until they just start to darken then pull out quickly (they burn fast as well). Set both the chilis and cashews aside for later.
Next toss the chopped chicken in flour to coat evenly. After coated, fry the chopped chicken in this delicious cashew/chili pepper infused oil until browned and cooked through. Pull out and set aside. Dump the oil and replace with a few tablespoons of fresh oil. Wait until the oil gets hot then add the garlic and minced chili pepper and cook until aromatic but before it browns, about 15 seconds. Add the red and green peppers and stir fry for about 30 seconds. Add the onion and stir fry for another 30 seconds. Next add your sauce and mix until the sauce begins to thicken and soak into the veggies.
Once the sauce is thick, add the chicken, cashews, fried chilis and stir fry to heat through and coat. Add the green onion, give a few quick stirs and remove from the heat. Pour yourself a Sichuan Saison and enjoy!