Chinese-Style Chicken Stir Fry with Asparagus and Cashew Nuts

When I was younger I used to think of asparagus as an extremely fragile luxurious produce that had to be cooked as simply as possible, avoiding spices, strong flavours or bold combinations, otherwise it would easily be spoilt. (By the way, I used to think the same of scallops… but am so glad I no longer do!). Then, I started to experiment with it and quickly learnt it was one of the most versatile vegetables! Just like every year, I share with you the results of my experiments (as long as they are worth it, of course) and today I’m happy to add this simple stir-fry to my recipe list. I should probably always precise I mean the thin green or violet asparagus, softer and more delicate in taste than its white thick counterpart. My favourite variety is cheaper, but most of all its flavours and texture make it particularly easy to cook and incorporate into dishes from all around the world. I’ve already successfully added green asparagus to Japanese, Thai, Indian and Korean food, but this stir fry was my first go at Chinese cuisine. Even though I guess it’s not a typical vegetable of the region, the asparagus paired perfectly with Chinese flavours.

In case you wonder what else to do with asparagus…

Bibimbap with Asparagus
Thai Curry with Noodles and Asparagus
Chawan Mushi (Egg Custard) with Asparagus
Asparagus Maki Sushi
Asparagus and Bacon Rolls
Spring Rolls with Asparagus and Chicken

TIPS: Most of you probably have soy sauce, but I encourage you to buy two less known ingredients: Xiaoxing wine and black Chinkiang vinegar. Both can certainly be replaced (see below), but their flavours make the final result more complex and interesting, especially for a Western palate. I started using them thanks to Fuchsia Dunlop and her fascinating Sichuan Cookery, hence probably the feeling they make the dish more Chinese… Anyway, both can be easily found in Chinese – or general “Asian” – grocery shops here (I buy them for example in a Vietnamese grocery shop), so I suppose it’s similar in many countries. They are also easy to get online.

Dark Chinese soy sauce adds more depth and is also worth investing in (I even use it sometimes in Korean dishes!).

As I’ve mentioned above, I use here thin soft green asparagus, which also has a dark violet version. I wouldn’t replace it with the fat thick white (or a similar also thick and with light violet hue) asparagus, which is more bitter and not so easy to pair.

If you have never cooked asparagus, there is one thing that should be avoided: overcooking. As long as it’s still at least a bit crunchy, it will be delicious. If you overcook it you’ll end up with mushy staff you probably find jarred or canned in supermarkets.

Preparation: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

1 tablespoon oil

15-20 cashew nuts

2 small chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces or strips

1 big onion or four big shallots

10-12 green or violet asparagus spears, the tough lower parts removed

(fresh green chillies, cut into slices; if using jalapeños, I add one per person)

Chicken marinade:

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon Xiaoxing wine or dry sake


2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon dark Chinese soy sauce

1 tablespoon Xiaoxing wine or dry sake

1 tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar (or 1 tablespoon malt vinegar)

1 teaspoon sugar

1 flat tablespoon potato flour

1 garlic clove, crushed

200 ml chicken stock or water

Combine the chicken with the marinade ingredients.

Prepare the sauce combining all the ingredients in a bowl.

Cut the onion lengthwise and then slice it.

Cut the asparagus into bite-sized pieces.

Heat a pan and toast the cashew nuts until slightly browned (don’t burn them).

Remove the cashew nuts from the pan, add 1 tablespoon oil and when it’s hot, add the chicken pieces.

Stir-fry at medium heat for about 3 minutes.

Add the onion (and chilli pepper, if using) and continue stir-frying.

When the chicken is half done, add the asparagus. Stir-fry for about 5 minutes (or until the asparagus softens to your preferred consistency). Then add the cashew nuts and the sauce.

Stir-fry until the sauce thickens. If you find the sauce too thick, add some water and heat stir-frying.

Serve with rice.

10 Replies to “Chinese-Style Chicken Stir Fry with Asparagus and Cashew Nuts”

  1. Perfect timing because asparagus season is so late here in Ontario. We had our first batch last weekend. I suspect the cold rainy spring has caused the asparagus to grow thickly but it is not woody like it usually is. And a real bonus is that I have all the ingredients in my panty for this gorgeous dish! I like the depth of flavour the dark soy brings but really worry about the amount of sodium so I don’t use it often. This recipe is a perfect treat with it.

    1. Thank you so much, Eva, for such a kind compliment. I don’t think the dark Chinese soy sauce is saltier than the light one. At least it doesn’t taste saltier, I’d even say the opposite. As light soy sauce I always use reduced salt Japanese one (even in Chinese dishes), but there is no dark soy sauce equivalent (at least in our shops).

  2. Who can’t use another delicious asparagus dish? I should could! What a tasty marinade for the chicken. All of these ingredients sound fabulous together. Another wonderful asparagus recipe Sissi!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ! Asparagus is resistant even to the most crazy experiments in the kitchen! It always seems to work.

  3. Such a wonderful deep color on this sauce (I love Chinkiang vinegar by the way -it is my fave in hot & sour soup!) – interesting about the asparagus; I rarely see white asparagus but have noticed that the smaller the green stock, generally the tastier. The cashew is perfect here! Lovely Sissi.

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly, for all the kind words! I love Chinkiang vinegar too! It’s so different from other vinegars… I must have six vinegars now in the kitchen and cannot imagine replacing the Chinkiang one with any other. I also agree about the asparagus! In general, the smaller the fruit/vegetable, the better it tastes!

  4. Thils is exactly the kind of dish I’d order off a menu any time, but have never mae at home. It’s always interesting to read recipes for such things.

Comments are closed.