Thai Stir Fry Chicken with Cashew Nuts, Gai Pad Med Ma Muang

Thai Chicken with cashew nuts, Gai Pad Med Ma Muang 18

Happy Chinese New Year! For people who don’t know, it was on January 31st this year.

I’m filling another request here. Chicken with cashew nuts is one of my all-time favorites, as it is for my husband. It’s a simple dish that’s become a staple for the Thais and the farangs both. The ingredients are easy to find all over the world. When I was traveling a lot and staying at people’s homes instead of hotels, I considered this to be a very simple dish that I could make for my hosts.

This is NOT an original Thai dish. It’s from the Sichuan Chinese dish called “Kung Pao Chicken”! Does that sound familiar? The Thai just changed the nuts from peanuts to cashew nuts.

I don’t have the clear history of the dish. When did it migrate to Thailand? How did it divorce the peanut and marry the cashew? I just know that the Gai Pad Med is now a well respected immigrant that already has a Thai name and lost the trace to its origin. WE took over!

The names Gai Pad Med or Gai Pad Med Ma Muang are the abbreviated versions of the full Thai name for this dish, “Gai Pad Med Ma Muang Him Ma Paan” (ไก่ผัดเม็ดมะม่วงหิมพานต์) or another way of spelling with the same pronunciation “Gai Pad Med Mamuang Himmapan”! (Gai=chicken, Pad=stir fry, Med Ma Muang Him Ma Paan=cashew nut) Please, leave the name alone out of respect. Remember that there is a Hawaiian fish named “Humuhumunukunukuapuaa” existing in this world that would make the  name “Med Ma Muang Him Ma Paan” feel kinda short and pronounceable!

Thai Chicken with cashew nuts, Gai Pad Med Ma Muang 16

I actually don’t like to order this dish at a restaurant, unless it is a very, very good restaurant and I know they can make this dish better than me. The reason is because I don’t like “Gai” Pad Med Ma Muang but I like “Neau” Pad Med Ma Muang more (Neau=beef). And if you ever visited Thailand, you know the questionable quality of their beef!

My husband used to order a steak once in a while when we were in Thailand. He craved it, you know, just like I craved rice or noodles. My sister and I would totally pray for him to get a decent piece of beef and hope that they didn’t cook the h*** out of it. Result? Failure about 85% of the time. Thai people are not known to have good quality beef and they’ll always cook it well done even if you ordered medium rare! I would tell the waiter just to let the beef pass near the fire–don’t let it touch the grill–and I still get medium! The medium steak is the same texture as the sole of a sneaker, imagine the well done steak….That’s right, the texture of a work boot.

So I never order this dish with beef in Thailand but I would make this dish with beef when I’m in the US, though. Just stir fry organic beef, nothing fancy, and you get a nice tender and juicy meat. This is not a complicated dish, but to make it exactly like the way they serve it in Thailand, you might have to do multiple steps in cooking.

Thai Chicken with cashew nuts, Gai Pad Med Ma Muang 2

The first thing is the cashews. You can use already roasted cashew nuts to save one step. If you use the raw cashew nuts, you need to fry them before you stir fry them!

Next is the dry chili and the meat. Both of them need to be cooked before cooking!…haha…No, don’t blame it on the Thais. This is the Chinese method. You need to fry the chiles until they turn deep red, fragrant and crispy.

To cook the meat, there are two different ways. The way I like–and it is the original way–you have to fry the meat, coated with tempura or all purpose flour first. This is to make sure that the meat (chicken or beef) can absorb or hold the sauce. The flour will absorb the sauce better than the meat alone, and the added benefit is the meat will retain the juice and not leak it into the wok when cooked again. This is what makes the chicken taste so good.

Tip: You don’t absolutely need to pre-fry them if you concerned about your oil intake. It won’t be as good, but it’s your choice.

After you fry the cashews, chilies and meat, then you will stir fry them again with the sauce.

Thai Chicken with cashew nuts, Gai Pad Med Ma Muang 15

Ingredients:

Chicken or beef, cut in small pieces, 1 cup (Use tofu if you are Vegetarian or Vegan)

Cashew nuts 3/4 – 1 cup

Onion, 1 whole onion peeled and cut up into 16 sections

Dried red chili, as much as you want

Scallions or green onions 3 – 4 whole stem (stalk?) cut to 2 inches long

Chopped garlic 1- 2 teaspoons

(Optional) All purpose flour or tempura flour as needed

Thai Chicken with cashew nuts, Gai Pad Med Ma Muang 14

Oyster sauce 1/4 cup (Use Mushroom soy sauce for Vegan and if you like, add a teaspoon of Vegemite for umami taste)

Light soy sauce 2 tablespoons

Sweet soy sauce 1 tablespoon

Sugar 2 tablespoons

Sesame oil 1 teaspoon (approximately)

White pepper 1/2 teaspoon (approximately)

Oil about 1 – 1 1/2 cup

Method

1) Mix all the sauce, oyster sauce, sweet soy sauce, light soy sauce and sugar together.

2) Add a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper to the meat, then dust them with flour, if you chose to pre-fry them.

Thai Chicken with cashew nuts, Gai Pad Med Ma Muang 3

3) Add oil to the wok and set the heat to medium high. Once the oil reaches the medium high heat, add the raw cashew nuts first, then lower the heat to medium and fry them until brown.

Thai Chicken with cashew nuts, Gai Pad Med Ma Muang 5

It will take a while, be patient and don’t rush it, stir often. If you use the big whole cashew (I use medium size), you can drop the heat even lower than medium. I use medium heat so the cashew nuts are cooked all the way to the inside. If you are using roasted cashews, you don’t need to fry them.

Once the cashew nuts are golden, take them out of the wok and lay them on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil and let the nuts cool. They will be crunchy once they’ve cooled down.

4) Next is to fry the chilies, making sure that they are all a deep red, fragrant and crunchy. Once they touch the heat, they will expand to full round pods, keep the heat at medium or lower and be very careful, the chili pod can burst.

Thai Chicken with cashew nuts, Gai Pad Med Ma Muang 4

I like Puya chilies the most for this, but you can try Thai chilies if you want it spicier. Take them out and put them on a paper towel to drain some oil out and cool them down. If the chili pods are too big, once they cooled down, you will need to cut them. Also remove some seeds if you don’t want extra spicy.

Thai Chicken with cashew nuts, Gai Pad Med Ma Muang 6

5) Increase the heat up to high and fry the floured meat.

Thai Chicken with cashew nuts, Gai Pad Med Ma Muang 7

Fry quickly, only until the flour is golden on the outside. You don’t need to cook them through at this stage.

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6) Take oil out of the wok, leaving only 2 tablespoons. Add chopped garlic and toss it around the pan for 30 seconds with the heat still on high.

7) Then add the cut onions.

Thai Chicken with cashew nuts, Gai Pad Med Ma Muang 9

This is my favorite part of the dish. Yes, you heard right. I LOVE the sweetness of the cooked onion. How much you should cook them? Until they are slightly translucent but not soft. Think of the texture of the onion inside onion rings (I would say Fleming’s onion rings are the best example). This will take only a minute or two.

8) Add the fried meat, fried chilies and fried cashew nuts to the wok. Pour the mixed sauce over them and stir fry until the sauce coats all of the meat. With chicken, continue to stir fry until the meat is cooked through, but with beef you can stop as soon as you see the sauce coats the meat all over.

Thai Chicken with cashew nuts, Gai Pad Med Ma Muang 10

9) Turn off the heat. Add green onions and fold them in a few times. The left over heat will take care of cooking them further.  Drizzle with some sesame oil and  shake the white pepper on top. Serve with jasmine rice or, in the case of my husband, just a fork.

Thai Chicken with cashew nuts, Gai Pad Med Ma Muang 13

73 thoughts on “Thai Stir Fry Chicken with Cashew Nuts, Gai Pad Med Ma Muang

  1. We had a wonderful Thai restaurant in my town with the best chicken cashew with rich dark sauce like yours. Now all their dishes come with a pinkish sauce that seems to be doctored with a little fish sauce or a little coconut milk but every sauce is basically the same no matter what you order. I was so sad to lose my chicken cashew and am thankful you posted this great recipe. Do you have a recipe for evil jungle prince? I’ve tried a few from the internet but they aren’t right.

  2. Hi from Australia. Thank you so much for this recipe. It was perfect. Better than in the Thai restaurants we visit, and easily the best home made Thai dish we have ever cooked. Would it be greedy to cook it again tomorrow…?! 🙂
    ขอขอบคุณ

  3. Hi I would love to try this tonight but I don’t have sweet soya sauce (not found where I am at the moment) and no molasses. Any suggestions. Thanks 🙂

  4. I can’t thank you enough for this recipe. The only night my husband and I make time to cook together. We love it. It’s definitely our favourite dish ever! And fun to make 🙂

  5. As a vegetarian in Thailand I regularly order this as “Hat Pad Met Mamuang” (“Hat” = Mushroom).

    This dish comes in so many slightly different variations that I just want to order it at each and every restaurant (though frequently I get disappointed by a poorly done “Had Pad Nam Man Hoi“ with cashews on top).
    My favorite variety that I have encountered so far was very similar to your version. With crispy crumbed “Hat Fang”.

    I could swear that in many variations I taste something fruity (tomato/ketchup) or even a more complex combination of flavors that I can’t fully nail down yet, presumably “Nam Prig Pao” (a Thai chili/shrimp paste). Do you have any thoughts on this?

    • First of all the mushroom should be pronounced “Het” เห็ด (like head but much shorter sound). Not hat or had that’s the wrong vow. Good thing that there is no Thai word pronounce hat so most likely Thai people will be able to guess what it is that you meant. (Excuse me I need to correct that for your own purpose and also other readers)

      Now back to the fruity flavors, I’m not sure what it is. For vegetarian we will not use oyster sauce but we will be using mushroom soy sauce instead. Thats it. Sometime we might put pineapple in the stir fry but you will see it.

      • Thank you for your answer.

        As for the phonetic transcription, I chose the one based on http://www.thai2english.com/dictionary/1449647.html where they use “hèt” for “เห็ด”. I think it does not matter, all ways of expressing Thai words with the English alphabet are flawed in one way or another and useful only with a lot of accompanying context information.

        It’s a good thing that you always write each word in Thai script as well (and I should have done the same). Being able to read Thai script is the only sane way of reading Thai words and being sure about their pronunciation and therefore actual meaning.

    • No, he is fit and and in a good shape, never weigh over 195lb. He knows how to balance his diet and have a good self discipline that you obviously do not have.

      Just for your knowledge (so you don’t bark on the wrong tree in the future), a one serving of stir-fry food uses less oil than a regular serving of salad with regular salad dressing, (approximately about 1-2 tablespoons of oil for stir-fry compare to 2-3 tablespoons of oil for one serving of any salad dressing).

      One serving of Thai street fried chicken, one breast and one drumstick will sum up to about 320 calories but a bacon cheeseburger with 4oz. patty packed with 600 calories, a regular cheeseburger also contained 450 calories.

      I assumed that you have never been to Thailand. Just to shade some light into your dark corner, There are much less over weight Thais compare to the Americans.

      If you are not happy in your world for whatever reason Mr.Rob Nobody, I recommend you to go get a consultation with a therapist instead of going around barf your uneducated and rude comment (even with typo) on other people blog. It “wast” your and my time both.

      I wish you a better and happier life in the future.

  6. I love this recipe. It has become a regular meal in my house and many guests have asked for the recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  7. this was the first dish i ordered when i went to thailand about 14 years ago. i still remember trying to say “gai pad med ma muang” om the phone and asking did i say that correctly and the smooth person saying, yes, just like a thai person. It is still my favorite dish. i live in bangkok now and i made this dish last nite in australia for my son and family and it tasted as good as any i have ordered. thank you for your recipe

  8. Hello! First, I would like to thank you for all the amazing recipes, and most of all for the valuable information you make available here in your blog, about Thai culture, food, history…This is the ultimate resource for me, and I trust you like no one else that I have come across online.
    That being said, I have a question about this recipe: If I am to use chicken, can I/should I still dust it with flour before frying?
    Thank you again. Will be looking foward to hear back from you.

    • You can do it both ways. Flour will trap more sauce than the flourless one but also have more calories from oil and many more steps to prepare. Originally in Thailand, they serve the version with flour but I do them without at home, if I use chicken.

  9. Thank you very much! I was wondering how make that extra floating sauce restaurants have when you order gai pad mamuang? Can I just double the sauce ingredients?

    Regards
    Sheraz from Norway

  10. Question about soy sauces: I’m Chinese, and I have Chinese soy sauce (light and dark) on hand right now, which I understand are a bit different than the Thai versions. Would they be alright to use instead of Thai soy sauces?

  11. Best recipe I’ve found we come from Sydney and now live in new Zealand I have tried many recipes but this is the closet I’ve found that is as good as a Sydney thai restaurant thank you can you also do a musaman curry please

  12. This looks awesome and i wish to make it for the dinner party this week but we dont get oyster or mushroom sauce here in a small city (Amritsar) in india. Please tell me if there’s any substitute for these sauces.

  13. I have made this about half a dozen times; it’s one of my favourite Thai restaurant dishes, so I’m really happy that you posted it! The flavour of your recipe is excellent, and it’s so easy to make. Thank you!!

  14. This looks absolutely amazing. I love thai food, but only have one problem: it contains a lot of sugar. My boyfriend is allergic to sucrose (fructose is fine) and I have learned creative ways to get around this, but hesitate to do so with this dish. Can you suggest a way to make this dish sucrose free without compromising on the flavor? I already have sugar free soy sauce.

  15. All I can say is WOW! This is one of my favorite Thai dishes. I made this recipe, just added some carrots, red and yellow peppers (by my kids request). It turned out fantastic, my husband said it needs to be added to the rotation of must make for dinner list. Thank-you so much for sharing. 🙂

  16. This was great, I didn’t flour the chicken and I left the chillies out as my son doesn’t like the spice. Added a blob of ketchup as I didn’t have any sweet soy, but the result was fantastic. I had a happy diners at the table.

    • For the sweet soy sauce, if you can’t find it, dark soy sauce mix with molasses would be a good substitute.

      Wow…ketchup! If you want to serve that to the Thais, you might want yo tell them about the ketchup first hand. It’s probably tasted more Iike a sweet and sour dish than chicken with cashew nuts to the Thais (https://highheelgourmet.com/2014/05/03/thai-sweet-and-sour-stir-fry-pad-priew-wan/). We don’t use that many dishes with ketchup.

      I’m sure it tasted great but just not what most Thais would expected from the dish. Like you order an egg Benedict and get the hollandaise sauce made with wasabi and limes instead of mustard and lemons. Foods are all expectation and collective experience. You probably be able to eat the “Asian hollandaise” just fine but you might want to know that in advance, would you. (lol do I have to tell you that example was from my true experience serving to a friend? Haha…I was so missed the photo opts right there. His face was so unspeakable.)

  17. I have tried this recipe, and it is SOOO delicious, how much chicken do you use for this recipe, because I think I put to much chicken in my dish, and didn’t have that much sauce?

  18. Made this tonight. Delish!

    Question about the chilies. Why dried instead of fresh? What is it adding to the flavor profile? Just curious of leaving them out in place of fresh bird’s eye for heat would change the intended flavor too much.

    Wonderful recipe! Ill be making it again and doing a write up of your recipe on my blog for sure. I’ll be sure to let you know when I do!

    • We do have the other dish made with fresh chili but that dish didn’t have the cashew nuts. It called “Pad Phrik” with almost the same ingredient except the cashew, sesame oil and no need to flash fry the meat before stir-fry.

      This dish is originally served in Chinese restaurant and Chinese people there don’t eat chili as much as the Thais. It still considering a “Chinese” dish in the country though.

  19. Oh, man… That looks wonderfully delicious and wonderfully easy to make, especially if you don’t have to fry the cashews. Never saw them being fried before! And since I have never been to any other Asiatic country except Japan, what’s wrong with the beef there?

  20. As always, this looks delicious. But this time, the recipe looks simple enough that even I might be able to get it right! Haha… Might make this in the next couple of weeks! Mm… my mouth is watering thinking about it!

    • ํYou mean to coat the meat before deep fry? or to mix it in with the sauce while stir fry?

      I never use the starch to coat the meat for deep fry so I don’t know the result but the process is just to seal the juice in the meat and also make the sauce coat the meat easier. So, I think which flour shouldn’t be that big of a deal. This is just an opinion without testimonial. I have to do it at least once to be able to answer that question properly.

      In the sauce, we don’t put any flour to thicken anything because there shouldn’t be any juice in the wok. High heat, meat sealed in flour can’t leak juice, all sauce would be trapped by the flour coating to the meat. UNLESS, you don’t deep fry the meat before stir fry but I don’t think there will be that much juice anyway. So no starch in the gravy would be my verdict.

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