My kids are crazy about orange chicken. They frequently pick it up at that well-known Chinese restaurant chain and will order it off the menu any time they see it at a Chinese restaurant. Personally, I have never been a big fan of orange chicken, but this recipe has made me change my mind. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that a homemade version would be so much better than take out.
Our house is empty again after the winter school break, but John was coming for a visit. As usual, I wanted to make something special for him for dinner; and I thought that this orange chicken would be just the ticket since he likes it so much. I just didn’t realize how much I would like it as well.
This is definitely not a meal you’d want to make after a day at work; but, with Roger and me making it together, the prep went fairly quickly. So, pick a day when you have time to indulge in preparing this meal. You’ll find it well worth every minute.
Ingredients for the marinade and sauce
- 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 3/4 cup orange juice
- 1 1/2 tsp. finely grated orange zest
- 6 tbl. white vinegar
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (dark or light)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbl. fresh ginger, finely minced
- 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 lbs. boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 tbl. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
- 2 tbl. cold water
- 8 thin strips orange peel (optional)
Ingredients for the coating and frying
- 3 large egg whites
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 cups each peanut and canola oil (I used all canola oil and used enough to cover the pan to a depth of 1/4″ or so, adding more oil as necessary to keep it at that depth.)
Ingredients for garnishing
- Chopped green onions
- Toasted sesame seeds
To make the marinade and sauce, combine the chicken broth, orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper in a large saucepan; whisk to blend well. Measure out 3/4 cup of the mixture and transfer it to a large zip-lock plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces to the bag, pressing out the excess air and sealing well. Refrigerate and let marinate 30-60 minutes, but no longer. Place the saucepan with the remaining mixture on the stove and heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth. Add the mixture to the saucepan with the sauce. Continue simmering until the sauce is thick and translucent, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the strips of orange peel, if using. (This will accentuate the orange flavor—so, if you prefer a milder orange flavoring, leave out.)
To prepare the coating, place the egg whites in a pie plate and whisk until frothy. In a second pie plate combine the cornstarch, baking soda and cayenne pepper; whisk to blend. Drain the chicken of the marinade in a colander or large strainer; pat dry with paper towels. Place half of the chicken pieces in the egg whites and turn to coat. Transfer the pieces to the cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly, shaking off the excess. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
To fry the chicken, heat the oil in an 11- or 12-inch round Dutch oven or straight-sided sauté pan until the oil reaches 350˚ F. Carefully place half of the chicken pieces in the oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning the pieces halfway through cooking. Remove from the oil with a skimmer or slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Return the oil to 350˚ F and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
Reheat the sauce if necessary and toss with the cooked chicken pieces. Serve over rice, if desired. Garnish with chopped green onions and toasted sesame seeds.
If you look for sesame seeds in the photos, you won’t find them. The original recipe didn’t call for toasted sesame seeds, and I didn’t think of it until we were actually eating the meal. I have absolutely no doubt that the sesame seeds would be a great garnish and will add a nice little crunch, so I plan to sprinkle them on top next time.