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March 22, 2007

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Auntie Miranda

Well, what you CHILDREN don't know because you didn't LIVE it, the two brothers started out in the SAME restaurant - Leong's - and that's where the cashew chicken started. They originally made it traditionally, but it didn't sell very well. Don't know whether one brother or the other came up with the idea or if it was a a collaborative effort. But when they changed their menu to the "Southern Fried" cashew chicken, it became the hot spot in town. You'd almost always have to wait up to an hour to get seated. The story went that brothers had a falling out and Gee moved out - if you'll remember - on the SAME street but the opposite side of town. That could also just have been their way expanding the business, but I like the idea of a feud better.

Auntie Miranda

Do we get the recipe for Sweet and Sour tomorrow? I need a good recipe. The chicken is the same, only the sauce is more like duck sauce and has green peppers and pineapple chunks in it.

Auntie Miranda

I love the way you do the chicken. Great idea!

Willa

It works the other way here in S. Central PA. We'll find a nice ethnic restaurant opening up, and we'll go try it. The food will be wonderful! We will be ecstatic that we finally have choices that are not bland and beige! We'll tell our friends who alos like food with color anf flavor. We'll go back a second time, the food will still be good. We'll be happy and full. But by the third visit, usually a few months apart, because we don't eat out a lot, the food will be bland and boring. We ask why the changes, and the restauranteur will tell us "This is how our customers say they like the food." Sigh.

I once took a vacation in Springfield- we were really broke, living in St. Louis and drove down to spend a weekend in Springfield visiting the Bass Pro Shop (this was when it was the only one around)and Laura Engals Wilder's house in Mansfield.

Willa

sher

Great post!!! And the chicken looks great, love the way you did the picture. And that's so funny about Springfield having the most take-out!!!!!

Glenna

Aunt Miranda--okay I'm liking your additions to the story! Thanks for telling me. Scott and I are talking about really trying to trace down the origins and facts on this story and see what happens with it. I'm really curious now. LOVE the "southern fried cashew chicken" and the idea of a feud. That's dramatic! LOL!

Do you not have my mother's sweet and sour pork recipe? It was one of my favorites. I've had that recipe card in my recipe box since college (the first time.) I'll do that next week. You could use the sauce on that and the chicken from this, although the pork is great.

Willa--That's sooooo frustrating. Seriously. We have a lot of that here too and it's so depressing. I totally understand that people have to make a living and they have to do whatever it takes, but it's so depressing to the rest of us!

Funny about the vacation. We used to have a lot of people who came to town just for Bass Pro, or Pro Bass as tourists sometimes mistakenly called it and called attention to themselves. It is a cool store. I know a story about that one too that amuses me. Supposedly, Johnny Morris senior used to say to his sone, Johnny Morris Jr who owns both that and the Brown Derby liquor stores, "Son, you're never going to amount to anything. All you like to do is fish and drink beer." Well the joke's on him, huh? If it's true.

LOVE Laura Ingalls Wilder and the home in Mansfield. I love looking at Pa's fiddle and Mary's handmade lace and the house Almanzo built for her here where she wrote the books. It's so romantic. I love that it's all real. I try to go there every few years. Love the house too because he built everything to her size. She wasn't even five feet tall and he lowered all the kitchen cabinets and the library bookshelves to accommodate Laura. I, being short, could live in that house in a heartbeat. Plus, it's so sweet.

Sher--thank you so much! I really enjoyed writing that. It is funny about the world record, isn't it? If we're to be known for something, it's funny that it was that.

Katie

What a great story! I'm from a small town in the 'upper midwest' so can truly relate to what they must have gone through to get the 'locals' to try the food!

Kristina Green

Ya know....I'm not one of those people who absolutely love Springfield and would never think about living anywhere else. But when I think about our Cashiew chicken I have to admit...i get a little sentimental. I love love love cashiew chicken! I don't care if it is bland and boring, i love it. This was a fantastic post!

Glenna

Katie--Yes! It takes a while sometimes for people to get acclimated to new food. Here, NOW, it seems like people are willing to try new restaurants but I bet it was a huge struggle 40 years ago.

Kristina--I agree. I love it too. As much as I love sushi and kung pao and lots of other dishes, I always come "home", so to speak, to our cashew chicken. And just like fried chicken, it's great cold too. :-)

jackie

Oh thank you for this recipe. I went to college at SWBU in Bolivar and we would go into Springfield for this chicken. Every resturant since I have looked for this style of cashew chicken, but alas not the same. Can't wait to try it for myself! Jackie

tom

Re: the adaptations that immigrant cooks have to make to accomodate "tamer" American palates, I would recommend watching the wonderful movie "Big Night" with Tony Shalub (from "Monk"), Isabella Rosselli, et al. It takes place in the '50's in a town on the New Jersey shore, and Tony plays one of two Italian immigrant brothers who struggle to establish an Italian restaurant with recipes that are faithful to the old country, and not just a lot of spaghetti covered with red sauce and big ol' meatballs (which would not be found served that way in Italy). There is one hilarious scene where Tony comes out and tries to convince a customer that no, her perfectly cooked risotto does NOT come with a side of spaghetti!

JL Jameson

Actually, the nuerosurgeon's name was Doctor Wong. You might want to check with Dr. Walter Zabek, the Oral surgeon, if you want to know more about Dr. Wong. They were friends for many years. The above posters are correct that the original Asian fare in Springfield was Leong's. They had egg roles to die for that cannot be duplicated anywhere in Springfield now. I wish the younger Leong generation wouldopen a new establishment using some of the old recipes!.....hint, hint!

Glenna

JL--Thanks for the info! This is so interesting to me and Scott's been following along too. Thanks everyone for filling in gaps and giving names...I love this!

Glenna

Jackie--Glad to be able to give you a good recipe for that! I know.There are foods we will always associate with certain places and certain times in our lives. It's like tastebud memories.

Tom--I've seen the movie name but never watched it. I will now that you've named who's in it and a little of the plot. Rosselini and Shalub are two of my favorites and it does sound fun. Thanks!

Auntie Miranda

Just noticed - this picture sure kills the "blue" idea. I can't imagine a more appetizing looking color than that blue bowl. Just jumps out!

Glenna

I know! I thought of that too when I photographed it. I love the way the blue picks up the blue on the chopsticks and enhances the browns. It's pretty, not at all appetite suppressing like that article said. I don't think.

dong

I grew up in Branson, Mo., and every once in a while get a craving for Springfield cashew chicken (like right now, which made me search the internet for a recipe). Anymore, though, I rarely eat Chinese food because too many all you can eat buffets have made the food too dry, over cooked, and too similar in flavor. Occasionally we'll find a good restaurant where you can order off the menu and from time to time I'm pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately when you say food quality in the Midwest it instead means quantity.
I also have to totally agree about how good restaurants with something different are soon turned into something familiar. Just a few miles down the road from where we live now is a place called Bear's Aloha Grill, a restaunt run by a five-star chef who worked in the Hawaii for years. He has fresh fish flown in each week but the people here in northwest Missouri invariably order fish and chips (breaded and deep fried) or pork tenderloin (also breaded and deep fried and was something Bear said he had never heard of until coming to this region). Oh well, I plan to enjoy it while I can.

Glenna

Dong-- I hear you. Basically, there are a lot of really bad restaurants out there. I love it when I find a chef I can trust and enjoy and management who knows how to run a restaurant instead of running in into the ground. Good luck with your cashew chicken search. Thanks for stopping by!

Gary Young

I now live in Kansas City, but I went to College at SBU in Bolivar in the early 80's and used to frequent Leong's Tea House 20 miles south. (when I went upscale for my cashew chicken) There were many knock-offs then, mostly fast food "chinese" like Master Wangs (later changed to Wong whose catch-phrase was "call the Wong number") and Wok and Roll, but Leong's was the best and the original. Leong's opened in 1963 and was a staple on Sunshine street. It was owned by David Leong and I met him and his son, Wing Wong. Yes, Wing Wong. They claimed David was the inventor of Springfield Cashew chicken and was very proud of it. I heard of the feud between the brothers but never asked about it. The brother's Gee's East Wind opened as far north as Kansas City North, but closed in the early 90's. It served the traditional Springfield cashew chicken, but after it closed, there was none to be found in KC. Restaurants here (in KC) serve their own version of Springfield Cashew Chicken, but, believe me, I know Springfield Cashew Chicken, and it's no Springfield Cashew Chicken. My parents live near Springfield, and I ALWAYS stop by Bolivar, where the last remaining Master Wongs remains. (if you're there, always ask for all-white chicken and sauce on the rice...)

Glenna

Gary--thanks so much for adding your memories in. I just love how something we so take for granted has touched many lives.

Deen

I am a born and raised Memphian, but did live in a little podunk town in Missouri for about 2 years - (anyone heard of Blackwell? I didnt think so! LOL)

Anyways, this is where I discovered Springfield Cashew Chicken and would often make the 15 minute drive into town to get it! And if we ever traveled through Springfield....well, it was just a given that we had to stop for lunch/dinner. Thanks for the history on what just might be my favorite meal ever!

Glenna

You're welcome! Thanks for commenting. I love all the stories that have come out.

Darrell

I was born and raised in Springfield, but left many years ago, after the cashew chicken rage took hold. I thought the Bamboo Inn, a carryout place near SMS/MSU, did as much to popularize the dish as anyone. Believe me, cashew chicken was great munchies late at night in the mid 70s! I was amazed to return to Springfield in the late 70s/early 80s and find a cashew chicken joint on every street corner.

Glenna

Darrell--I've heard lots of folks who went to MSU back then (my college time too) talk about Bamboo Inn. From what I can piece together, Leong's was more of a dress up place and then the others filled in the casual gaps. Thanks for adding your story to the mix!

Linda

My husband and I first went to Leong's Tea House for dinner the day we got married. It became our tradition to go there for dinner every year after that on our anniversary. We moved to Fayetteville, Ar in 1987. Needless to say, we sure have missed that restaurant. Cashew just isn't the same down here. It's good, but more of a stir fry version. Anyway, The Spfld News Leader printed the cashew chicken recipe, as well as, the sweet and sour chicken recipe in their paper in the mid to late 70's. I fixed that many times for family and friends. Somewhere during the move I lost the cashew recipe. Do you have the original recipe? It called for chicken broth or water with chicken bouillon cubes but I can't seem to get the right proportions. Thanks for your help.

Billings, MO girl

Oh, do I miss that most delicious Springfield Cashew chicken. I was born and raised near there. I have been to many states and the only place I will eat chinese food is in Springfield (my family still lives there, thank goodness!) when I go visit. I will try the recipe this weekend. Nobody can appreciate it until they try it!

glenna

Linda--I don't have the original recipe but if you go to Fire & Ice on North Glenstone the next time you're in town...you can get the real thing since David's son is the chef there.

Billings girl--I know. It's somethign we grow up with and have no idea it's even unique!

regina

I grew up in Branson Missouri which had a couple of places that had the same Cashew Chicken. I LOVE the Springfield version of cashew chicken. I grew up, went away to college, and now live in the Kansas City area. I distinctly remember the first time I went to get Chinese food as a "grown up". I ordered my favorite, cashew chicken. When they brought me the plate of stir fried vegetables with unbreaded, unfried chicken...........I thought, "What in the world is this?" I ordered Cashew Chicken?!!
Every now and then I will see "Springfield Cashew Chicken" on a menu, and my hopes rise again. But, although they have it battered and fried, it is not the same batter and the wrong gravy. I keep looking, but so far have never found a place near KC that makes it the "right" way for all of us original ozarks folks.
So whenever I visit my relatives in Branson, we always make sure we stop through a cashew chicken drive-through on our way through Springfield so I can get my cashew chicken fix! (My favorite is Peking House off hwy 65 and Sunshine)
Thanks for the info regarding the origin of this unique food and thanks especially for the recipe!

William

I live in Los Angeles and am *trying* to get a restaurant here to start serving it. Orange Chicken is *huge* here and I feel that Springfield Style Cashew Chicken would fit in nicely.

Let me tell you, there is a LOT of resistance to the idea though. No one wants to take the "risk" of doing deep fried chicken...everyone has it in their head the the chicken must be stir fried with no batter. Sheesh! Live a little, Los Angeles!!!!

(Interestingly enough, Orange Chicken is deep fried and battered -- someone explain to me why Cashew Chicken can't be that way too? They need to think outside of the Chinese Box!)

atrac

The recipe you posted -- where's the peanut oil? And why do you need to put it back in the pan for twenty minutes?

Cliff

These stories are fascinating. I grew up in the Springfield-Buffalo area and still love Cashew Chicken. I now live in Wisconsin and will occaisionally drive with my family to Tulsa to visit my parents. I always stop at the Shanghai Inn on Glenstone near Kearney (that's where I used to go as a student at BBC). I would love to be able to enjoy cashew chicken at a table in Leong's just one more time. Thanks to all for the memories!

Glenna

Thanks for Commenting, Cliff. It's great to hear from so many people across the country! Next time you come through try to make Fire/Ice on North Glenstone. They have a cashew chicken appetizer from David Leong's original recipe, but also on Wednesdays they have a full fledged special of Cashew or Sweet/Sour--delicious!!!!

Islalover

I have lived in the Springfield area all my life. As a girl ate at Leong's many times. For a time my mother worked as a waitress there. My husband & I on our wedding evening had our wedding supper there. The night my husband graduated from school we had dinner there. Lots of special occasions were spent there. We were there the last night of business as well. Lots of good memories. The decor I loved. The beaded entrance to the bathroom area was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay cool. :) It was a pleasure to see the family gather around the large table at the front sharing a meal together. The Koi pond as well..oh memories.

This week went to Fire & Ice and had to go the take out route as the restaurant itself was booked until 8:00 allll for cashew/sweet sour chicken. While the chicken was tasty it wasn't the same as Leong's Tea House. The batter on the chicken was smooth and darker while the original chicken had a rough/light/crispy batter. It was sooooooooo yummy. Sweet/Sour is my fav and it was not exactly the same either. Egg Rolls were great but again..missing an ingredient I was told Leong's put peanut butter in the mixture. I think that was not there. :( Plum sauce was just as yummy as it use to be!!! My husband likes the cashew chicken and the sauce was the same but again batter on chicken different. Fried rice was yummy as always but don't remember the veggies being in it from the past.

It's true that the brothers started at Leong's together and that there was a difference of opinion and Gee's East Wind was born. Both were good in there own right but everyone in town had their preference...mine being Leong's but when it was no more I tried Gee's and it was good...killer sum gum rice YUMMY! It's sad to say they are both no more...

brad

everytime i am on business in branson, i take the time to drive up to Ozark, MO and hit up Golden Dragon restaurant on Jackson st. i believe.. right before you head over the bridge and around the bend.. the best place for cashew chicken and made from scratch soups.. i heard that they were thinking of relocating to Atlanta GA which i think would bode well since that is where true southern comfort food is.

Adam

If anyone could find out the cashew chicken recipe from a place called Bamboo house in Marionville MO. that would be great. I miss that place they had the best food,everything was cooked to serve.

Ozark Doc

I teach chemistry at a college in the Seattle area and get the same negative reaction about frying the chicken locally, even though the General Tso's and Sweet and Sour chicken is batter-fried here. Spent over a month in China teaching English and actually gave the recipe (I worked as a chef at a place in Joplin in the '80's and learned a recipe then) to a student, who made some for the class and they generally didn't like it (but the class thought that it was funny eating American "Chinese" food). When I fly back to visit friends and family in SW MO, I always get a double order, freeze it, and fly back with it, then break it out for Thanksgiving as a homey reminder of friends. When I was a student at SMSU/MSU, we used to go to Bamboo Inn and Jade East to get it, these days I go to China Inn (?) about a half a block on Sunshine from Bass Pro. I've heard that someone actually found it on a menu in Paris labeled Springfield-style Cashew Chicken. Probably urban myth but it is nice to think that it might be true.

Ozark Doc

Since you are a foodie and into healthy recipes, try using flash fried alaskan salmon chunks as a substitute for the chicken (the trick with the salmon is to get the wild and non farm-raised, so that there is some taste left after frying the fish). Bread the salmon chunks and fry in as hot peanut oil as you can get it, to trap in the flavor. Great on the omega oils and at least to me, the taste of the salmon blends well with the light oyster sauce flavor from the cashew sauce.

Leanne Jernigan

My first job was at Leong's Tea House. Wing Leong was running the place when I started, but it was his father David who invented "Springfield" cashew chicken. Wing ran the place until it's closing. I still dream of the food! UNMATCHED! The picture you posted looks nothing like the real deal though. Sorry.

Glenna

Thanks for commenting, Leanne. It's so cool to hear from people who worked and ate there.

(Don't worry. I wasn't trying to match his. I have no idea what his recipe was and Wing isn't talking. :-))

Robert Shaw

I was born and raised in Springfield and left in the late 70's to join the Navy. I recently served aboard the USS CARL VINSON (aircraft carrier) and the doctor onboard was none other than Commander Wing Leong from Springfield. It was really fun talking to him about Springfield and cashew chicken...but he would never share the recipe to a fellow naval officer! lol

lgeowa

Thanks for posting the recipe for Springfield Style Cashew Chicken. One of the original take-out places, Bamboo Inn, is now closed. Apparently one of the brothers is deceased and one is retired. The restaurant is now called Thai Express. The gentleman says he has the same recipes, and while the Cashew Chicken was still good, it wasn't quite the same. The egg rolls; however, are definitely not the same. The original egg rolls served there were mostly cabbage, in fact I remember "pink" cabbage. Do you have a good egg roll recipe that is mostly cabbage and not a lot of meat?

Clay

I would't try cashew chicken until my girlfriend, Stacy Farmer convinced me to take her out to a cashew chicken place on the north side of town. Now I am addicted. Every bit of that story, from what I have researched myself when I was living in Chicago longing for cashew chicken is true.

Steve Bingham

Actually the Leong brothers started cooking their dish at the Grove Steakhouse on Glenstone. It has since burned down. They used to double check the invoices on product they bought using their abacus in the kitchen!
They then went out on their own and started Leong's Tea House. Then the feud, etc.

Ellynn

I have only been away from Springfield for 6 months, but the FIRST place I will go after I step off the plane is Hong Kong Inn on Glenstone. Cashew Chicken to die for, and some pretty amazing crab rangoon,too! I miss it SO much. (Which would explain why I'm googling recipes at 3am on a Friday night!)

Glenna

Ellynn--It's definitely a comfort food! Thanks for commenting!

John White

We used to go to Leong's all the time. They had a big lazy susan type center to their round tables and everyone would order something different and share by spinning the lazy susan to the next dish. Except for my dad that is, who always insisted on getting the Springfield Style Cashew Chicken and would not share with anyone. We always used to laugh at/with him for doing so. The night my dad passed away I went to a new asian restaurant in Springfield (new to me being from out of town now) and had the Springfield Style Cashew Chicken in his honor. I did not share it with anyone! Thanks for the memories...John

Tulsa Wedding Photographer

GREAT POSTS!!!
looks like delicious recipe..
thanks for the effort for posting a kind of recipe so nice..
DELICIOUS..

Arin

Yes Adam, you are correct! I used to work at Bamboo House when I was in high school....it's worth the drive to Marionville if you want some yummy Chinese fare! A big key is frying your chicken in peanut oil and using homemade chicken broth in the sauce!

Oklahoma Wedding Photographers

This is so yummy, must try this weekend for a family treat!

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