Meandering Musings

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Orange Chicken

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While not my favorite “Chinese” dish - General Tso’s Chicken is - it is very good. My biggest problem with this and pretty much any Americanized Chinese food is that it has an extremely high salt and sugar content. I want to learn to make real Chinese food, it just seems so much healthier but right now I am learning the basics of real Thai cooking and Chinese is next on my cooking education list. Still, even though it has nothing in common with Chinese food, I like Americanized Chinese food, to my detriment, but we all need a vice or three.

Prepared sauces that can be bought in stores typically have extremely high sodium levels and some also dump in a lot of sugar. High sodium and sugar is not a healthy thing to do to yourself, it is downright abusive. This recipe tries to tone both down. Making hoisin sauce is kind of annoying and I have never tried to cook oyster sauce. Homemade sauces are typically the way to go if you have the time and inclination because amounts of salt and sugar can be adjusted down. The recipe goes lazy and defaults to store-bought sauces, but there are low-sodium alternatives.

I have seen orange chicken recipes with an 8-1 ratio of oyster sauce to hoisin and personally, that is not great, probably because I dislike oyster sauce, but without it, the recipe tastes wrong. So, I even out the hoisin sauce to counteract the nastier aspects of oyster sauce.

Most recipes have a significant amount of sugar and this one can as well. That is also not great. For people with a sweet tooth, like me, OJ that is especially sweet - without any added sugar! - helps but even for me, it is not necessary. If it is not orangey enough for you, you can add a bit more juice and increase cornstarch to thicken it. I have not tried it but some grated orange rinds, a tablespoon of orange concentrate, or a half of a tsp of orange extract might boost it as well.

Many of these recipes have you coat the chicken in flour of some sort, like tempura flour, and sometimes even cornstarch, and fry it in a couple of inches of fat. The resulting texture is nice but it is just added fat and simple carbs(more sugar!). This recipe forgoes all of that and just uses ‘naked chicken’. Of course, it is not crunchy but healthier.

Orange Chicken

 Sauce ingredients
 1/4 cup oyster sauce
 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
 3 oz orange juice fresh squeezed is best
 2 tbsp orange blossom honey or up to 1/2 cup of sugar
 3 oz rice vinegar
 1/2 tsp ground paprika
 1/2 tsp minced ginger
 2 tbsp soy sauce
 2 cloves minced garlic

 1 tbsp cornstarch
 1 tbsp water

 Optional
 1 tbsp chili paste
 10 (approx) dried chilies

 Chicken ingredients
 2 lb boneless chicken
 1/2 cup sliced onions of whatever kind you like
 1/2 cup cut bell pepper
 4 sliced scallions
 2 tbsp sesame seeds
 Sesame oil - or whatever is handy

 Make the sauce
 Combine the water and cornstarch and mix it. Combine all of the sauce ingredients, including the cornstarch mixture and chili paste if you are using it, in a small pot and heat on medium. 
 Stir with a whisk until it starts to simmer. Continue stirring for a few minutes until the sauce thickens.

 Prepare the chicken
 Cut the chicken however you like it. Small cubes or thin slices cut at an angle work well.
 Heat a wok or large frying pan and put a small amount of oil with heat slightly above medium, just enough to cover the bottom. 
 If you are using dried chilies, either put them in whole or cut them in half and remove seeds if desired.
 Put the cut chicken in the pan and cook until the pieces are barely cooked through and add the dried chilies, onions and scallions.
 Continue cooking until the chicken is fully cooked, which should only take a minute or two.
 Drain the oil from the pan and place it back on the heat.
 Add the sauce and cook, while stirring, for another minute or two.

Adding the right spiciness to your liking does take some trial and error. This recipe errors on the side of caution, so feel free to omit them if you aren’t too adventurous or increase it if you enjoy more spiciness.

Whatever part of the chicken that you like is just fine.

Like all of my non-baking recipes, these are rough estimates. Experimentation is encouraged!

Serve it on rice if you like, but it also goes well with just a nice salad with bok choy and a sesame ginger dressing. Why not both? Fried rice is also good. A fried rice recipe will be added here, hopefully soon.

An easy way to cook rice without scorching the pot or resorting to buying a rice cooker:

Easy Steamed Rice

 1 cup of Jasmine Rice
 2 1/4 cup water
 1 tsp salt - optional

 Bring water and salt to a boil, add rice, and stir. 

 Bring the water back to a boil. 

 Cover very tightly and turn off the stove and let it sit for 15-20 minutes.

 Done!

If you need the stove space, it is usually okay to take it completely off.

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