My kids think Chinese take-out is a big treat. And sometimes it really does taste good. The trouble is that it’s hard to get out of there for under $25-30 for the four of us. I’d really rather put that toward a meal at either one of our favorite yet somewhat more expensive family-friendly restaurants—one is Greek, the other Indian, and I don’t have the touch for either of those cuisines.
When we carry out, we’re also left with a heap of pretty greasy unrecyclable containers. While I have washed a number of these for re-use, I just don’t need any more of them.
I recently came across this recipe for Sweet and Spicy Cashew Chicken on a website for a set of Canadian cookbooks written by a group of women of my mom’s generation. I was pretty skeptical because it contains, of all things, ketchup. Normally, I would have passed, but a number of the other ingredients made the recipe sound kind of promising: sesame oil; fresh ginger; Worcestershire sauce (full of umami!); chicken broth; and lots of vegetables.
This recipe made a stir-fry which was the closest version of Chinese take-out I’ve ever made. The addition of sugar to the cornstarch the chicken cubes are tossed in helps the chicken brown more quickly than plain cornstarch. Getting the chicken to brown nicely has been a challenge with stir-fry for me in the past.
The ketchup adds the viscosity needed for that Chinese take-out sauce mouthfeel and a sweetness that appeals to the kids’ palates. It did sound a bit too sweet for me, so I cut the ketchup to ¼ cup and increased the soy sauce to 3 tbsp. (I use low-sodium soy sauce). I cut the cayenne to just a sprinkle and substituted 1-1/2 inch lengths of asparagus for the snow peas I didn’t have in the house.
Everyone liked it, and each kid ate at least one of the vegetables in it as well as all of their chicken.
*By the way, I just realized that Hunt’s has eliminated HFCS from their ketchup. I think Trader Joe’s sells an HFCS-free ketchup too.