Cashew chicken

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Cashew chicken
A plate of stir-fried cashew chicken (traditional)
CourseMain course
Place of originUnited States
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredientsChicken, cashews, chicken stock, soy sauce, oyster sauce, vegetables
Variationsstir-fried, deep-fried

Cashew chicken is a Thai-American dish that combines chicken (usually stir-fried but occasionally deep-fried, depending on the variation), with cashew nuts and either a light brown garlic sauce or a thick sauce made from chicken stock, soy sauce and oyster sauce.

Traditional cashew chicken[edit]

The traditional version of cashew chicken is stir-fried in a wok. Tender chunks of chicken are combined with crispy roasted cashews, vegetables and are tossed in a light sauce made from garlic, soy sauce and hoisin sauce, thinned with water.[1]

Springfield-style cashew chicken[edit]

The deep-fried version of the dish is closely associated with the city of Springfield, Missouri.[2][3] Deep-fried cashew chicken was apparently first served in 1963 at the Grove Supper Club in Springfield. David Leong (1920–2020),[4] a chef who moved to the United States from China in 1940, struggled to gain acceptance for the foods of his homeland so he began searching for a dish that would appeal to local residents' tastes. His famous deep-fried cashew chicken recipe was so popular he soon opened Leong's Tea House in Springfield.[5][6][7] The dish became exceedingly popular in the Springfield area and is often cited as the unofficial "dish of the city". Springfield even hosts an annual festival that is centered on this chicken dish: Springfield Sertoma's Cashew Craze.[8][9]

A plate of Springfield-style (deep fried) cashew chicken served with fried rice and an egg roll.

Borrowing from the local love of fried chicken, Leong came up with a variation of the preexisting dish. Instead of stir-frying the chicken, as is normally done, he deep-fried the chicken chunks. He then covered them with the typical sauce made from chicken stock, soy sauce and oyster sauce, and added the handful of cashews. He also included chopped green onions as a twist and it became an immediate hit with the local crowd. As word spread about the dish, so did the recipe. Leong's Tea House closed its doors in 1997, but Springfield-style cashew chicken is still being served at over 70 Chinese restaurants, as well as many non-Chinese restaurants, in and around the Springfield metropolitan area, and elsewhere in Missouri and other states.[2][5][10] Springfield-style cashew chicken has been mentioned on The Food Channel,[11][12] a nationwide syndicated radio program,[13] and the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.[14]

In 2010, Leong's son, with his father's assistance, opened a new restaurant in Springfield serving the same style of cashew chicken.[15][16] Leong died at the age of 99 on July 21, 2020.[4]

Similar dishes[edit]

A plate of kai phat met mamuang (Thai-style stir-fried cashew chicken) in Thailand

In Thai cuisine, there is a related stir-fry dish called kai phat met mamuang himmaphan or kai phat met mamuang.[17][18]

Almond chicken, commonly served in American Chinese restaurants, is similar to cashew chicken.[19]

In Haitian cuisine, there is an unrelated chicken stew with cashews called poul ak nwa that includes Scotch bonnet peppers.[20][21][22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Segal, Jennifer (March 2010). "Cashew Chicken". Once Upon A Chef.
  2. ^ a b Edge, John T. (March 11, 2009). "Missouri Chinese: Two Cultures Claim This Chicken". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Berneking, Ettie (March 27, 2015). "How David Leong Invented Springfield-Style Cashew Chicken". Feast Magazine.
  4. ^ a b Kull, Katie (2020-07-21). "David Leong, inventor of Springfield cashew chicken, dead at 99". Springfield News-Leader. Retrieved 2020-07-21.
  5. ^ a b Bridges, Amos (2006-02-23). "Cashew chicken satisfies Ozarkers' palates". Springfield News-Leader. Archived from the original on 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2007-02-05.
  6. ^ Brown, Brian (December 20, 2012). "12 People You Need to Know in 2013: David Leong: Godfather of Cashew Chicken". Springfield Business Journal.
  7. ^ Pickle, Geoff (August 20, 2013). "Creator of Springfield's cashew chicken reflects on 50 years". Springfield Business Journal.
  8. ^ Simmons, Briana (April 9, 2013). "Best cashew chicken declared winner". The Standard, Missouri State University.
  9. ^ "Springfield Restaurants Going Head-to-Head for "Cashew Craze"". KOLR. April 3, 2013. Archived from the original on 2014-04-27.
  10. ^ Nachtlgal, Jerry (April 29, 1990). "Springfield Restaurants Make Lots Of Cashewed Chicken". Nevada Daily Mail. p. 2A.
  11. ^ Logsdon, Kay (February 16, 2011). "Springfield Style Cashew Chicken: Try the recipe or visit this Ozarks city and take a restaurant tasting tour". Food Channel.
  12. ^ "Springfield Cashew Chicken: From The Kitchens of The Food Channel". Springfield Business Journal. March 2, 2011.
  13. ^ Rippe, Cindy (February 28, 2014). "Cashew Chicken Springfield Missouri Style!!". WIXX. Archived from the original on March 13, 2017. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  14. ^ Long, Billy (March 15, 2013). "Recognizing David Leong". Congressional Record. 159 (38): E315–E316.
  15. ^ Grant, Steve (December 7, 2010). "New Leong's restaurant recalls origin of famous Springfield cashew chicken". KYTV (TV). Archived from the original on 2010-12-10.
  16. ^ Pollock, Katie (March 2011). "Leong's Asian Diner: The family that invented Springfield-style cashew chicken is preparing it again at Leong's Asian Diner". 417 Magazine. Archived from the original on 2016-03-18.
  17. ^ Chaiya, Siwawut. "Top 10 Thai Dishes You Just Have to Eat". The Gourmet Connection Magazine. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2014-08-02.
  18. ^ "Cashew Chicken (Kai Phat Met Mamuang Himaphan)".
  19. ^ Frederick, Missy (2018-10-30). "Almond Boneless Chicken Is a Chinese-American Cult Favorite". Eater. Retrieved 2023-05-21.
  20. ^ Yurnet-Thomas, Mirta (2003). A Taste of Haiti. Hippocrene Books. ISBN 9780781809986.
  21. ^ "North Signature Dish – Poul Ak Nwa – Chicken With Cashews; What you will need to make Poul ak Nwa – Chicken with Cashews". Haiti Observer. June 24, 2013.
  22. ^ Enston, Lesley (January 11, 2022). "Poul Ak Nwa (Chicken With Cashews)". Bon Appétit.