recipe: orange chicken.
My husband and I try to eat local. We like to support local restaurants by giving them our business if we choose to go out to eat. Thankfully the town we live in has some fantastic restaurants. Mom and pop places where the food is good and the service is excellent. But every now and then we’ll visit some chains, like Panera Bread (I LOVE their rewards card system – I’ve gotten some good free things there like a smoothie, a pastry and a cup of coffee), Chick Fil A (nuggets & waffle fries, enough said!), Wendy’s (they’ve actually got really good salads), Chipotle (cheap and healthy), Pei Wei (have you heard of their new diner selects option? it’s cheaper. and also their stock-velveting option – no deep fried meat, just steamed with sauce) and Panda Express.
Oh, Panda Express, how I love you.
I first ate at a Panda Express nearly 8-9 years ago, when I worked at a Christian bookstore inside a mall. My lunch breaks were spent sitting at the mall cafeteria, eating loads of rice and orange chicken. You see, the orange chicken at Panda Express is UH-MA-ZING. Up until recently, the closest Panda Express from us was about 25 minutes away. This was a good thing, as I couldn’t justify driving that far just to get orange chicken. But now, our town opened its first Panda Express. Sigh. That orange chicken (along with their string bean chicken and firecracker shrimp) is within my reach. This is not a good thing. Not only is the food good but cheap! I must exercise self-control.
(Side note – after having been to China and eating the food there, my love of Asian food grew. I don’t consider Panda Express and Pei Wei to be real Asian food, but just pseudo-Asian. It can’t be helped when you’ve had real Asian food as well as local Asian restaurants in your own town. But I still have a soft spot for P. E. and P.W.)
Anyways, we try to limit our eating out, to save money. So I figured, while I needed to satisfy my craving of orange chicken, I should search online to see if I could find a recipe that was close to Panda Express’s version. I was lucky! I found a recipe that I think is pretty close to the orange chicken at P. E. Maybe better (that’s what a lot of the reviewers said). After making the orange chicken myself, I was convinced of its goodness. And I think it’s decently healthy, because I didn’t deep-fry the meat and I added spinach at the end for some nutrition. My husband, who is a fan of P. E.’s orange chicken, loved what I made and he agreed with me that this dish will be put on the rotation.
You gotta try it! I tell you, it is delicious.
PS – this is the only picture I have. When you’re cooking something like this, you have to be pretty fast to add the ingredients. No time to take pictures! And here’s a tip: make sure you have all your ingredients already set out, ready to be put in the pan. Mise en place will serve you well here, as a stir-fry dish doesn’t leave you much time to scramble to get an ingredient from your pantry.
Orange Chicken (slightly adapted from Food.com)
- 3 large uncooked chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch bite size pieces (or smaller, larger, whichever you want)
- canola oil (for frying), maybe 2-3 tbsp
- 1 tbsp gingerroot, minced
- 1 tsp garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- water (to taste, if you think the sauce ends up being too vinegar-y for your liking)
ORANGE SAUCE (doubled from original recipe)
- 3 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
- 3 tbsp water
- 10 tbsp white sugar
- 10 tbsp white vinegar
- zest of 2 oranges
1. Mix all the orange sauce ingredients in a bowl, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Set aside.
2. Heat a small amount of oil (1-2 tbsp) in a large pan. Panfrying, cook and slightly brown the chicken pieces in the hot oil. Remove from pan when cooked and set aside chicken.
3. Add about 1 tbsp of oil in the same pan, use high heat and add ginger & garlic. Sautee for about 10 seconds. Add chili flakes and stir quickly. Add the rice vinegar, stir for 3 seconds, then add the orange sauce. Heat until boiling, then bring the heat to low so the sauce can simmer.
4. Add the chicken to the sauce, stir well to combine. Simmer for 10-15 minutes to get the sauce to thicken up. (Or, you can make a little cornstarch & water paste, but I didn’t do this since I had no cornstarch in the pantry.) Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper.
5. Remove from heat, and add as much spinach leaves as you want. (Like my “healthy” addition? Why not?). Serve with brown rice. Enjoy!