I was a disciple of General Tso’s chicken during my time in the east coast and had never heard of Panda Express orange chicken. Conversely, Ren was a Panda Express aficionado out west and had never heard of General Tso’s chicken.
It was only after several years of marriage and countless “Ang lolo ko”* chicken stories did we realize that we were essentially campaigning for the same dish. Orange chicken and General Tso’s chicken are strikingly similar, both being derivatives of the same Hunan-inspired dish known in Chinese as “陈皮鸡,” or literally “old peel chicken.” Duh.
Golden nuggets of orange chicken goodness that would make Panda Express proud
Salted fish fried rice
FOR CHICKEN MARINADE AND SAUCE
- 1/2 kilo boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2 large oranges)
- 1 tsp grated zest
- 3 Tbsps distilled white vinegar
- 2 Tbsps soy sauce
- 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1/2 tablespoon)
- 1 pc fresh ginger (about 1 inch), grated (1/2 tablespoon)
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 2 Tbsps cold water
FOR COATING AND FRYING CHICKEN
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup light soy sauce or liquid aminos
- 1/2 cup canola oil
FOR SALTED FISH FRIED RICE
- 4-5 cups cooked day-old white rice
- 1 cup cabbage, sliced thinly
- 1 onion, diced
- 1/4 cup preserved salted fish, diced
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Salt and white pepper, to taste
- 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
FOR ORANGE CHICKEN
- Combine chicken stock, orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper in large saucepan. Whisk to completely dissolve sugar. Heat sauce over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil.
- While waiting for sauce to boil, combine cornstarch and water in small bowl, mixing to dissolve cornstarch.
- Once sauce reaches a boil, whisk in cornstarch mixture. Simmer sauce until thick and translucent, for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Mix cornstarch, egg and soy sauce/liquid aminos in large bowl. (The mixture will be very thick, almost paste-like) Add chicken pieces to coat. Using a fork, remove each piece of chicken one at a time and let excess mixture drip off.
- In small batches, fry chicken in hot oil (350 degrees) until crispy. Remove with slotted spoon and transfer to plate, drain on paper towels.
- Reheat sauce if necessary, then add chicken, stirring to coat.
FOR SALTED FISH FRIED RICE
- Heat 2 Tbsps of oil in wok, then add salted fish and sauté until golden. Remove from oil.
- In same pan, add onions and sauté over medium high heat until translucent.
- Add in cabbage and stir-fry for 1 minute. Make room in center of pan and heat remaining oil.
- Add beaten eggs and scramble until almost cooked.
- Add rice and stir to mix. Press on rice and remove lumps. Fry until rice is loosely mixed with eggs.
- Add in salted fish and mix.
- Season with salt and white pepper. Mix thoroughly.
DID YOU KNOW?
That Panda Express is the largest Chinese fast food restaurant chain in the United States? It currently boasts 1,362 locations across 39 states and Puerto Rico. The Ala Moana Center food court in Honolulu, Hawaii is the company’s highest revenue branch, raking in over USD 4 million annually.
Founder Andrew Cherng feels that the food they serve at Panda Express needs extra TLC, so he pays his employees 1-2 dollars more per hour than other fast food restaurants in an effort to get them to be more diligent in its preparation. Smart man.
*Ang Lolo Ko…
This is the humorous, exaggerated Filipino exchange of one-upmanship. “Ang lolo ko” literally translates to “My grandfather” so the banter goes something like this: Friend 1 says “My grandfather once caught a shark while fishing.” to which friend 2 replies “Oh yeah? Well MY grandfather once caught a torpedo with his teeth.” and so on and so forth.
JB and Renée are the Traveleaters behind Will Fly for Food, a travel blog for the gastronomically inclined. They enjoy experiencing food from different cultures so they’ve made it their mission to try every country’s national dish. Read more about them and their National Dish Quest here.