Our family loves Panda Express. Our oldest son, though? He's passionate about it. In particular, their orange chicken. So when he was home from college this weekend and mentioned he'd found a recipe that replicated Panda Express's Orange Chicken, I knew I had to try it.
Of course, the key to orange chicken is the sauce. And the base of this sauce is comprised of three readily found ingredients.
1 cup Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce (they were completely out of it at my grocery, so I opted for the store equivalent)
1 cup Orange Marmalade (incidentally, even though this was a 12 oz. jar, it measured exactly one cup)
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
So I mixed these three ingredients together in a sauce pan over low heat, stirring with a whisk to break up any chunks or marmalade. Then I tasted it.
Hmm... Not quite right. Orange chicken usually has a little kick to it. Matter of fact, I've seem red pepper flakes clinging to the chicken. So I cautiously added a couple shakes of red pepper flakes and let the sauce stand for a little while before sampling again.
Still no heat. Time to break out the big guns.
Now, while other members of my family will use sriracha sauce like ketchup, I prefer it IN things and always add it sparingly.
I added a few dribbles. No change.
A few more dribbles. Nothing. I wasn't looking for it to be hot, but I did want to know it was there.
I went for a full blown squirt.
But something was still missing. It wasn't as tangy as the restaurant's sauce.
So I added some vinegar. Just plain old white vinegar. Maybe a scant tablespoon.
That did the trick. Sweet, tangy, with a slight undercurrent of heat.
It wasn't exactly the same, but it was still good.
Now for the chicken.
Cube 2 pounds of boneless chicken breasts and set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 eggs.
In yet another bowl, mix together 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup corn starch.
Rather than dipping my chicken in the egg, I poured the egg over the cubed chicken and mixed it to coat each piece. Then dredge each chicken bit in the flour mixture.
I cannot do this without making a mess.
Heat oil in a large skillet and fry the pieces in batches.
Honestly, next time I think I might just deep fry them. It's quicker and would cook the pieces evenly. But that's just me.
Once browned and cooked through, remove chicken to a paper towel lined baking sheet and keep warm in oven until all of the chicken is cooked.
Now comes the fun part.
Place the chicken in a large bowl.
Pour the sauce over the chicken and toss to coat.
You may be tempted to not add all of the sauce, thinking there's more sauce than chicken, but remember that the coating on the chicken will be soaking up that sauce, so go ahead and add it all.
Serve over rice and eat it as a meal or, in the spirit of Jan's Super Bowl talk yesterday, have some toothpicks nearby and serve as an appetizer at your next party.
The end result was a tasty one. And while it didn't taste exactly like Panda Express, it was a close facsimile. And that's a very good thing. Because it dawned on me that once we move to the ranch, the nearest Panda Express will be an hour away, not just around the corner, like I'm used to. But with this recipe in my arsenal, if I get a craving for orange chicken, I'm good to go.
Now I just need to go back and retrieve Ruthy's lo-mien recipe (you can find that here) and I'll be all set.
What favorite restaurant recipes have you tried to duplicate? What were the results?