Orange Chicken is a classic Chinese restaurant dish similar to takeout sweet and sour chicken but with a bigger punch of flavor. Over the years, I learned how to make Chinese orange chicken from a combination of working at a restaurant, cooking at home and also eating out!
This Chinese restaurant style orange chicken recipe is the fourth in our Southern US Road Trip recipes series. A few weeks ago, Judy and I went on a road trip down the Eastern seaboard to places like Anapolis, Savannah and the Florida Keys. While in Florida, we ended up at Dooley Groves, where we picked our own oranges, grapefruits, and pomelos. In the spirit of citrus, we have for you, our own orange chicken recipe!
This orange chicken recipe calls for dried hot chili peppers, star anise, and dried tangerine peels. You’ll be surprised at how adding these aromatics to the dish really enhances the flavor of the orange chicken sauce. Another element of the recipe is using a savory marinade for the chicken and frying the pieces until they are crispy. The crispy and savory chicken coupled with the sweet, slightly tart sauce (with a hint of heat) is a great combination of flavors. All that said, this is really an easy orange chicken recipe to make, so give it a try!
I should mention that if you’re in a mood for a takeout Chinese Chicken recipe, you should check out our classic General Tso’s Chicken which adds some broccoli and has a nice toasted sesame flavor. The photos may not be as nice since it was 18 months ago since we posted the recipe (forget dog years, that’s a longer time in internet food blogger months), but the recipe is timeless!
Let’s get started with this one first and let us know what you think!
Orange Chicken Recipe Instructions
Put the cornstarch in a shallow bowl, and heat the oil in a small pot until it reaches 350 degrees F. Dredge the chicken pieces in cornstarch and fry until golden. Transfer to a plate.
Heat a wok over medium heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Add the dried red chili peppers, dried tangerine or mandarin orange peel, and star anise, and toast for about 20 seconds, being careful not to burn the aromatics.
When the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon (you don’t have to use all of the slurry if the sauce is thick enough), add the chicken and scallions. Toss quickly, and serve!
Ok, so more about our trip…we had a totally unexpected stop that we want to share with you. After we left the Florida Keys, we were in for a long drive back north towards New Orleans, and on the way, we stopped for lunch just off of route 75 near Sun City, Florida.
That day, we had a hankering for stir-fried vegetables and decided to stop at a local Chinese restaurant. While we were eating, Judy perused through the local paper and noticed an ad for pick-your-own oranges. We go to u-pick places for apples and peaches up in the Tristate area, but were really excited at the prospect of being able to pick our own citrus.
We made a phone call, and after a short 15 minute drive, we ended up at Dooley Groves and picked our own oranges, pomelos, and grapefruits. We signed up for a guided tour, learned some facts about the orchard, and picked a few large bags of fruit.
They had fresh pomelos for sale from their own orchards, which was a real treat since the last time we had a good pomelo was when we were in Beijing.
Although the sun was hot that day, we happily walked through the orchards picking fruits and marveling at the rows and rows of citrus trees.
There were a lot of trees out there, but luckily, we did not see any wild hogs!
We took our time selecting each fruit, trying to pick the heaviest (i.e. juiciest) ones.
Last point we wanted to share was our favorite fruit, since we tasted quite a few varieties. These honey tangerines may not look great but they are the sweetest and most flavorful variety we tasted. Needless to say, we left with a bag of these.
All said and done, we had over 30 POUNDS of oranges, pomelos, grapefruits and tangerines. Clearly, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs.
For the chicken:
For the sauce:
- 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
- 6 dried red chili peppers
- 3 to 4 pieces dried tangerine or mandarin orange peel (optional)
- 2 star anise
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice (60 ml)
- 1/4 cup chicken stock (60 ml)
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch (mixed into slurry with 2 tablespoons water)
- 1 scallion (sliced on an angle into 1 1/2-inch pieces)
- Toss the chicken in the sesame oil, white pepper, garlic powder, salt, and Shaoxing wine; set aside for 20 minutes. Put the cornstarch in a shallow bowl, and heat the oil in a small pot until it reaches 350 degrees F. Dredge the chicken pieces in cornstarch and fry until golden. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel.
- Heat a wok over medium heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Add the dried chili peppers, tangerine peel, and star anise, and toast for about 20 seconds, being careful not to burn the aromatics. Add the orange juice, chicken stock, vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce.
- Bring the sauce to a simmer and gradually add the cornstarch slurry, stirring constantly. When the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon (you don't have to use all of the slurry if the sauce is thick enough), add the chicken and scallions. Toss quickly, and serve!