A popular dish in Springfield-area Chinese restaurants would become the official dish of the state of Missouri under a pre-filed House bill. State Rep. Jamie Gragg, R-Ozark, sings the praises of “Springfield-style Cashew Chicken” which was invented by a Chinese immigrant and World War II veteran named David Leong.

“He joined the Navy (and) he was a part of D-Day,” Gragg told Missourinet. “While in the Navy, he really honed on his skills of a cook, a chef. After he was out of the Navy, he ended up in Springfield, opened up his own restaurant and knew that if he wanted to bring one of his home dishes here, then he knew he had to make it fit our taste buds.”

That restaurant, Leong’s Tea House, opened in 1963 and was Springfield’s first Chinese restaurant. It closed in 1997, but his two sons now operate Leong’s Asian Cafe which serves their father’s creation. David Leong died in 2020, just a few weeks before his 100th birthday.

Gragg said Leung made cashew chicken a bit different than what you’d normally find in a Chinese restaurant.

“Fried chicken – and the gravy has to be brown,” Gragg said. “(Leong) breaded the chicken instead of grilling it, and the sauce – he put duck sauce in it (to) make it a brown texture, brown color so it (would look) like something the (locals) would eat.”

Gragg said the dish has made its way out of Springfield, too. He quoted one one of Leong’s sons, saying it’s on the menu of at least one restaurant in China.

The 2024 legislative session begins January 3rd.

Copyright 2023, Missourinet.