Panda-Style Orange Chicken

I was overjoyed when a Panda Express restaurant was built near my home. There were two main reasons for my delight: their names were chow mein and orange chicken. This version of orange chicken has helped me resist the siren’s call of the panda more than a few times. Maybe they’ll save a few bucks for your family as well. Although this recipe is simple, frying the chicken in batches will take a bit of time. To use your time better, you may want to double this recipe and tuck half of the cooked chicken in the freezer to be heated up again the next time the urge for take-out hits.

Panda Style Orange Chicken

Serves 6
Prep Time: 40 minutes

2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-size cubes
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon peeled and minced or grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Dash of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Orange Chicken Sauce:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup water
Grated zest from 1 orange

1. Place the cubed chicken in a large bowl. Stir in the egg, salt, black pepper, and 1 tablespoon oil. Mix well. Stir 1/2 cup of the cornstarch and the flour together in a large shallow bowl. Add the chicken pieces, a handful or two at a time, and stir to coat evenly. Tap off any excess.
2. Pour about 1 inch of oil in a wok or deep, heavy skillet and heat to 375 F. If you don’t have a thermometer, heat the oil until it starts to ripple in the pan. Add the chicken pieces, a small handful at time, and fry until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside. When cooking the next batch, you will probably need to turn the heat down to keep the chicken from cooking too fast and possibly add a bit more oil.
3. Once all the chicken is cooked, reserve a couple tablespoons of the oil remaining in the wok in a separate bowl. Clean the wok. Combine the sauce ingredients in a large measuring cup and whisk until the sugar dissolves.
4. Heat the wok for 15 seconds over high heat. Add the reserved oil back into the pan. Add the ginger, garlic, red pepper, and green onions and stir-fry for a couple minutes. Add the sauce and bring to boil. Add the cooked chicken, stirring until well mixed. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch and mix until smooth. Stir into the chicken and heat until the sauce is thickened. Stir in the sesame oil. Serve with rice or chow mein.