Happy Turkey Day! I hope everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving, with family, with friends, and most of all, with good food! 😀 I’ve only spent one Thanksgiving away from my family ever, and that was when I was studying abroad in Europe. I was in Florence on Thanksgiving, and remember seeing many Tuscan restaurants offering American expats a real traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, stuffing, and even pumpkin pie. I decided to skip all that and go for yet another delicious meal of lasagna–because I can get American food any time I want, but when I’m in Italy, I better be eating some amazing Italian!
Since the date of Thanksgiving changes with the year, there’s no specific national food holiday that always lands on Thanksgiving. Which means that you can have a different-themed dish at your Thanksgiving table every year! That’s kind of exciting 😀 November 22nd is always National Cashew Day, but today it’s also Turkey Day, so…cashew turkey? 😀 Cashew nuts come from trees that originated in Northeast Brazil (but are way different from the Brazil nut!) The nut is the most prized product of the cashew, obviously, and can be eaten raw, roasted, salted, and used in any number of sweet and savory dishes. It’s a popular nut in many culinary cultures, and can be abundantly found in Indian, Thai, Chinese, and South American dishes. And, because it has a lot of starch to its weight, cashews are used as a thickening agent in many cuisines: it’s fairly common to find ground cashews in soups and stews…as well as a few other bases in our modern, alternative-diet world! The cashew has been elevated way past just one of many nuts in the huge assortment set down as a Thanksgiving snack.
When I think of a savory dish with cashews, I always go back to the Chinese fast-food staple of cashew chicken. One of the many dishes that seems effortlessly thrown together inside your white Chinese food takeout container, cashew chicken combines stir-fry chicken, cashews, and vegetables in a brown sauce usually made with oyster sauce. It’s one of the tamer, yet popular, dishes on a rote Chinese restaurant menu. But one variation of this dish I have definitely never seen at my local takeout joint: in Springfield, Missouri, in the 1940s, a Chinese chef decided to bring the appeal of Missouri home cooking to a traditional Chinese dish…and deep fried his cashew chicken. Can you imagine deep-fried cashew chicken?? The sauce and the cashews are the same, but the chicken is breaded and deep-fried before added to the mix. It’s become a huge deal in Southern Missouri, and it’s even the unofficial “dish of the city.” You can try out this Midwestern twist on a Chinese takeout classic at the Hurricane Club, an Asian fusion club and lounge with tons of small noshing plates to choose from. Their cashew chicken is served Missouri-style, with deep-fried little nuggets of chicken in a tangy brown sauce that tastes more sweet-and-sour than cashew. If you’re not planning to head to Chinatown and take the Fung-Wah bus home for Thanksgiving–and decided to party the night away instead–head to the Hurricane Club and check out this interesting dish today.
The Hurricane Club
360 Park Ave S (between 26th St & 25th St)
“Although considered a frequent choice at Chinese restaurants, be warned that the cashew chicken ($27) is beyond typical. Claimed to be based off a stolen recipe from Shanghai, the cashew chicken is uniquely tangy & sweet.”–The Examiner
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The Cashew chicken was amazing, it was really flavored and seasoned very well. Initially we were going to get the golden chicken and asked the waiter how it is, he said it was like a fancy chicken nugget basically — good thing we asked and changed it to the cashew chicken. Side note, I don’t even like nuts in my food, but that dish was really on point, where I didn’t care about the nuts.”–Aleia K.
“Cashew chicken. Originally, I was surprised that no rice was provided with this dish, but it was quite filling on its own. I enjoyed it.”–Sheena V.
I said before that cashews are commonly used as a thickening agent for soups and stews in many cuisines. But id you know that cashews can also be pulverized and turned into…ice cream??? Yep, it’s not only doable–it’s delicious. Raw cashew nuts are ground and blended to make a paste, which can then be turned into creamy, tasty, raw vegan ice cream. And no one in New York does cashew-based ice cream better than Lula’s Sweet Apothecary, which brings in ice cream lovers of all shapes and sizes–and diets. The mild flavor of the cashew usually enhances the added sweetness and tastes of Lula’s ice cream flavors. One of the best cashew ice cream combos is the Peanut Chocolate Chip, which is still made with vegan chocolate chips and chunky peanuts. It’s a chocolatey, nutty explosion of flavor that you never even realize has no animal products to speak of. And for those with even stricter diets, different flavors like watermelon are completely raw as well. Even if you are celebrating Thanksgiving today with friends or family, nothing is stopping you from heading down to Lula’s and adding a dollop of cashew ice cream onto your pumpkin pie!
Lula’s Sweet Apothecary
516 E 6th St (between Avenue A & Avenue B)
“I think their best flavors are the ones that are most open about their nutty origins, such as the Peanut Chocolate Chip ($3.95 for a small), made with cashews and enough peanut to power a marathon runner. It’s deeply nutty and peanut buttery, with just enough dark chocolate chunks to keep things interesting. One of my favorite chocolate-nut combinations out there, vegan or otherwise.”–Serious Eats
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Best (only ;)) vegan ice cream I’ve ever had! This tastes like the real deal, since the nutty cashew base gives ample creamyness. We split a brownie sundae with strawberry, maple pecan, and some third flavor I forget, but all were delicious. I usually don’t get fruity flavors, but the strawberry was a perfectly bright contrast to the warmer maple pecan, and the brownie. This place is adorable, but seating is minimal (4 chairs I believe) and the space is tiny. Must-visit for vegans!”–Jessica D.
“everything is dairy-free, noted on chalkboard is either (cashew) or (soy) meaning base is either cashew milk or soymilk base. I tried the softserve cake batter/chocolate twist and it really hit the spot. my friend got the coffee icecream and that was also really good with a nutty touch from the cashew milk. just 4 stools inside and a wooden bench out, if all occupied, it’s easy enough to walk to thompson sq park with your cone and people watch.”–Angela L.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!