Springfield may not make it into the headlines often, but it is famous for one thing both nationally and globally: Cashew Chicken—Springfield style.
At Leong’s Asian Diner, on West Republic, the legacy continues as Springfield’s original cashew chicken is served daily, and the tradition lives on. Most Springfieldians embrace the Leong story as a Springfield classic, heralding it as one of those “American dream” tales we all love.
In 1940 David Leong, who passed away in July 2020 at the age of 99, emigrated from Guangdong, China. He served in World War II, and afterwards cooked his way through Philadelphia, New Orleans, Pensacola, and finally made one last move to Springfield, where, little did he know, he’d strike gold. Leong worked the kitchen at a couple of different supper clubs after arriving in Springfield. One of them, The Grove, was where Leong started serving Chinese-inspired dishes, and began to experiment with the dish that would become cashew chicken.
Deciding to open his own restaurant was the next step, and in 1963 Leong’s Tea House was born. The 350-seat white tablecloth restaurant, did exceedingly well, serving cashew chicken and Leong’s famous egg rolls. With the success of the Tea House, other restaurants followed suit, trying to hold their own while the taste took off around the city for Leong’s creation.