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DIY Panda Express Orange Chicken

 

We all have our favorite fast foods, the stuff we grab when we’re on a road trip, too busy to cook, or simply crave the comfort of a dish that tastes exactly the same, exactly how we like it, every time we eat it. The Orange Chicken at Panda Express is one of those dishes for us.

We like this particular copycat recipe because it’s even better than the original. It’s healthier, of course, and the battered chicken fries up extra tender and chewy, but it’s the sauce that really makes the difference. It’s full of orange marmalade, ginger, vinegar, and honey, and just as tangy sweet as we remember — but then it finishes with an unexpected yet delightful burst of fiery heat from the chile sauce.

Our tips: The key to getting the fried chicken right is keeping a close eye on the frying oil temperature. Make sure you use a thermometer, and add the chicken to the pan in small batches, so that the oil can hold its temperature and give you a nice, crisp fry.

And think about this recipe for game day; it makes a fantastic appetizer. We skip the rice, make a double batch, and stick a cocktail toothpick in each nugget of chicken. If you want to make it vegan style, you could swap out the chicken for cauliflower florets.

 

Servings: 4 to 8

Ingredients

For the Orange Chicken Sauce:
¼ cup water
2 Tbsp cornstarch
½ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed if possible
½ tsp orange zest
2 Tbsp orange marmalade
3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp ginger, grated
2 ½ tsp of Sambal Oelek Chili Paste
2 Tbsp mirin
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
¼ tsp white pepper
1 tsp salt

For the Orange Chicken:
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
1 ½ cups cornstarch
Vegetable oil, for frying

 

Directions

  1. For the orange chicken sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the water and cornstarch to make a slurry. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture comes to a simmer, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Whisk in the cornstarch slurry and continue to cook until the sauce comes back to a simmer, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. This makes about 1 cup of sauce.
  4. To fry the chicken, pour the cornstarch into a shallow baking dish or bowl. Toss the chicken pieces in with the cornstarch to coat, then set aside for a few minutes. Toss the chicken with the corn starch a second time to coat again. Set aside.
  5. Line a cooling rack with paper towels.
  6. Add enough oil to a large, heavy pot to fill it halfway. Heat the oil to 350º degrees.
  7. Fry the chicken pieces, a handful at a time, until the chicken is firm and the fried coating is a pale, golden color. Drain on the cooling rack.
  8. Heat a wok over high heat until hot. Add the orange chicken sauce and cook until the sauce starts to bubble, about 1 minute.
  9. Add the chicken to the pan and stir until each piece is well coated with the sauce, about 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Recipe source: Los Angeles Times .