The Chinese chef behind Springfield’s acclaimed cashew chicken passed away on Monday night, according to a post on Leong’s Asian Diner’s Facebook page.
The Springfield News-Leader reports that Chinese-born immigrant Wing Yin “David” Leong opened up Leong’s Tea House in 1963, where he developed a cashew chicken recipe to appeal to the tastes of Southeastern Missourians.
The Springfield-style chicken—which we wrote about in our June issue—isn’t like the Thai takeout staple: It starts with nuggety chunks of batter-fried chicken glazed with a sweet and spicy sauce made with chicken stock, soy sauce and oyster sauce and crushed cashews and chopped scallions are tossed on top.
The cashew chicken recipe quickly made its way around town and cashew chicken dishes on Springfield restaurant menus became commonplace—the reason being that Leong was happy to give his recipe to anyone who asked for it (Leong’s sauce even sells by the jar).
Leong closed Tea House in 1997 after his wife passed. 13 years later, he and his son, Wing Yee, opened Leong’s Asian Diner in 2010 on the south side of town, which Wing Yee still operates today.
Leong would have turned 100 on August 18.