“Hi, my name is Hank, and I am addicted to Sad Panda’s orange chicken.”
Yeah, I admit it: I am a sucker for this crack-like approximation of Chinese food sold at Panda Express all over the country. I have no idea whether so-called orange chicken actually exists in China, although there is a vaguely similar dish called tangerine beef I like a lot.
If you somehow have never had it, orange chicken consists of pieces of chicken, usually thigh, marinated and coated in a batter then fried crisp, then tossed in a zippy, citrusy sauce that ranges from pleasantly sweet to cloying depending on who makes it. Some varieties also add chiles to balance things out.
If Panda does this, I can’t tell, so when I am there I always order it with some other entree that has those little dried chiles in it. I then bite off a piece of the chile and take a bite from a piece of orange chicken. The sweet-hot-sour is an addictive combination.
I didn’t set out to mimic Sad Panda’s recipe when I designed this rendition. I actually had a pretty pheasant breast recipe in mind, but found that when I thawed the breasts, they were kinda torn up. Not pretty enough for what I had in mind.
When this happens, Chinese food is one great way to go — everything’s cut into bits! So orange chicken it would be. My recipe is an amalgam of many I read up on, including purported Panda mimics. I also added some actual Chinese elements from what may be the dish’s origin, the tangerine beef I mentioned above.
The result is basically an “adult” version of Panda’s orange chicken. The crust isn’t as thick, but it’s crispier. The sauce isn’t as sweet, there’s significant heat from the chiles, and a bigger orange flavor from the juice, marmalade and the peel.
What’s more, the slivered peel adds a touch of bitterness that deepens the flavor of it all. If you loathe any sort of bitter, leave out the peel or just don’t eat it — treat it like a bay leaf.
Once you get the hang of this, which takes maybe twice, you will want it more and more and more. It’s addictive…
Chinese Orange Chicken
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice wine or vermouth or dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (optional)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2/3 cup orange juice, ideally fresh squeezed
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon marmalade
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- Drizzle of sesame oil
- 1 to 5 small, dried hot chiles, broken up and seeds discarded
- 1 tablespoon tangerine peel, thinly sliced (optional)
- 1 to 1 1/2 pounds pheasant or other white meat, cubed
- 2 cups cooking oil
- 2 teaspoons corn, tapioca or potato starch, mixed with 3 tablespoons hot water
- Chopped green onions optional
- Mix all the marinade ingredients together with the pheasant pieces; make sure each piece gets coated. Set aside while you prep everything else, about 20 minutes. For the sauce, mix the soy, orange juice, marmalade and vinegar together and set aside. Mix the 1 tablespoon of corn starch with about 2 tablespoons water in a little bowl and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a wok or small, heavy pot to 350°F to 360°F. Set a baking sheet nearby and line it with paper towels. While the oil is heating, toss the pheasant pieces with the 1/4 cup of corn starch. (This is a messy process, so you'll need to wash your hands at some point.) When the oil is hot, fry the pheasant in 3 to 4 batches until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes per batch. As each batch finishes, set it in the baking sheet to drain.
- After you've fried all the pheasant, pour out the oil into a glass or metal container; you can strain and reuse it later. Rinse the wok and wipe it out with paper towels, then set it back on very high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of oil from the container you just used. When it's hot, add the chiles and tangerine peel and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the pheasant back to the wok and the ingredients for the sauce you mixed together earlier. Stir fry this for a few seconds. Now, start stirring the corn starch slurry, and, while still stirring, pour it over the meat. Stir fry until it gets thick, a couple seconds. Drizzle the sesame oil over everything, give it one more toss and serve immediately.
Cleve Dixon says
Made for dinner tonight. My wife and I both loved it. (Full disclosure: made with chicken thigh, not pheasant. Sigh. I need to find some local CO folks to chase pheasants with. ????)
My wife often complains things are too spicy. But she loved this–used dried 2 chile d’arbol. The sweet perfectly balanced the hot. Really delicious!
Matt Julian says
Match made in heaven, I’ve made this with pheasant and Turkey and it was a hit with the family
Chris Gavin says
I made this recipe with a turkey breast that I had to dice up due to poor shot placement. My mistake turned into my great fortune because this was the recipe I found trying to figure out what to do with the diced breast. It was phenomenal!
John McNamara says
Needed a meal for my first charcoal wok adventure and went with this one. It has become a go to dish for get togethers.
Loved it! Probably will cut the marinade in half next time though.
Cole Kircher says
Made this with pheasant from our yearly trip to North Dakota and it was great. Our pheasant lost some of its crunch when we transferred to the the wok but that was a user error because our wok wasn’t hot enough. Will definitely make again.
Amie R says
Awesome with rabbit bits and blood oranges. Another great recipe, thank you so much!
Lauren Allen says
Made this with a brace of 4 chuckar by dog helped me bring in during one of our summer dog trials. I saved the legs for chuckar confit. FANTASTIC. even the picky 8 year old was gobbling it up.
Lisa Z says
my iPad might not be viewing properly but cornstarch is not showing in the ingredients. I see it in the instructions so it’s not too hard to extrapolate but it might be confusing to some.
curt evenson says
What is the corn starch slurry? What’s left from the coating?
Hank Shaw says
Curt: Nope, You see there’s starch listed twice in the ingredients? It’s the second use of the starch, mixed with a bit of water.
Hank, I only see cornstarch in the finishing ingredients and it’s two teaspoons rather than a tablespoon. Should there be some in the marinade too?
Hank what would you recommend to use since i do not have a wok?
Hank Shaw says
Colin: A big frying pan.
Coco in the Kitchen says
Crack is right!
Love the raisins.
Hank Shaw says
Coco: No raisins in this recipe. Those are hot chiles.
Rach's Recipes says
Looks amazing. Do you think it’s possible to purchase ready to use aged tangerine peel here in the USA? I’d like to try it. Thank you for sharing.
Hank Shaw says
Rach: Yes, in an Asian market I’ve seen them.
Made these last night with wild turkey thigh/ drumstick meat… Amazing! Definitely going to try this with some duck in the coming weeks. Thanks Hank!
James Murphy says
Looking forward to trying the recipe soon. Have a few shot-up pheasant breasts that would fit the bill. Also hung a few whole birds to age as per your sugrestion. I’ll get back to you soon on both counts. On another note: the venison chocolomo was a HUGE hit. Thanks Hank.
Abby (@ No Fail Recipes) says
I happen to have some pheasant in my freezer right now. I am going to have to try this.
During Your time in Minnesota did you ever have the orange chicken at Lee Ann Chins? I am weak in its presence.
Hello Hank….. You are not alone. I also have a problem. I am powerless in the face of that crunchy, sticky, spicy, sweet pile of awesome.
I’ve made an almost identical dish to this with both duck and venison. I’m guessing the omission of starch from the marinade and use instead as the coating pre-fry will crisp the pieces up more effectively. That was the only complaint with what I attempted. The coating didn’t hold up to the sauce coating either time. I think I added flour too and it just got a little soggy. I’ll try your method next time.
But that sauce….. Oh that sauce…..
Made your basic venison stir fry two nights ago and it was wonderful as always!
Brian W says
I would have to double or triple that recipe, then again if I planned on feeding the rest of the family!