How you doin”? Do you get cravings? I do… especially when someone tells me I can’t eat something; then the only thing I can think of is the “forbidden” food. Tell me I can’t have a doughnut and I will be thinking about doughnuts the rest of the day or until I can satisfy my cravings. Who am I kidding? I think about doughnuts a lot anyway!
While I usually eat pretty healthfully, there are certain mall food court foods that I crave occasionally. One such Asian dish is the Orange Chicken from Panda Express. At China Rose (my restaurant in Dallas) we had a killer Orange Chicken. So here is a mixed hack that will satisfy your strongest food court craving for Cantonese Orange Chicken.
Orange chicken is a classic American dish with a “Chinese Accent.” It didn’t start out to have that distinctive crisp crunch and citrus flavor. In the 1800s, future Chinese railroad workers immigrated to America seeking better opportunities. At the time, their homeland was ravaged from a rebellion with an unstable economy. Their home cuisine had some sweet elements to it, but overall was simply made with lots of vegetables and very little meat stir-fried and served with rice.
The original “Orange Chicken” (actually, tangerine chicken) didn’t have any breading. The sauce was made of leftover citrus peels cooked with salty soy sauce, chilis and garlic. The sauce had a citrus element, but it wasn’t as intense or sweet as we think of Orange Chicken today. Similarly, Chow Mein, General Tso's Chicken and Orange Chicken are Americanized mutations of savory and sweet and sour dishes that were found in China. As a side note, the worst Sweet and Sour Chicken I ever had was in Beijing in the late 1970’s.
My Orange Chicken recipe hits all the craving buttons… it’s crispy, tangy, and sweet with plenty of sticky sauce to go over the rice.
You will need a deep fryer thermometer for this recipe
Prep time: 15 minutes
Fry time: 7 to 8 minutes
Stir-fry time: 2 to 3 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
For the sauce
1/3 cup oyster sauce (I prefer Lee Kum Kee)
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, defrosted
1/2 cup sugar
3 ounces white vinegar
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce (Kikkoman—the green cap)
1 tablespoon Aji-Mirin sweet cooking rice wine (Kikkoman) or sherry
1/2 tablespoon ground paprika
1/2 tablespoon minced ginger
5 tablespoons minced or pressed garlic
1 tablespoon cornstarch whisked together with 1 tablespoon water
For the chicken
1-1/2 quarts plus 2 tablespoons peanut oil, divided (vegetable oil can be substituted)
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
2/3 cup ice cold water
2 cups chestnut flour (found in Asian stores sometimes labeled chestnut starch)
1/2 medium onion, diced
4 scallions… white bottoms cut into 2-inch pieces; green tops cut into slivered rings for garnish
White sesame seeds for garnish
1/4” sliced Orange wheels for garnish
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