Monday, June 3, 2013

Orange Chicken (Chen Pi Ji)

When I think of orange chicken, it's usually of the Chinese fast food variety with way too much flour/cornstarch coating and an overly sweet sauce. Therefore, it's not exactly a dish I crave for. However, I recently came across a recipe in Bee Yin Low's Easy Chinese Recipes that looked lightly crisp and was not overly dressed with sauce. In fact, she uses fresh orange juice and omits the dried orange peel, which is hard to come by unless you have an Asian market in your hood. Anyways, I took a crack at it and modified her recipe a bit by using both fresh and dried red chiles and extra sauce to which I added freshly grated orange zest to give it an extra boost of orange flavor. Really good with steamed white rice.

3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1" dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 dried red chiles
2-3 fresh red chiles (Jalapeno or Fresno), seeded and thinly sliced
2 scallions, chopped
1 cup cornstarch

6 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. rice wine
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tbsp. freshly grated orange zest
4 tbsp. water
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
4 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. white pepper

1. Combine all sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Place 1 cup of cornstarch on a plate. Coat chicken lightly in the cornstarch.

3. Heat about 2" vegetable oil in a saute pan or wok until hot but not raging hot (around 350F) - you can always sprinkle a little flour into the oil and if it sizzles, then it's ready to go. Fry the chicken in 2-3 batches (don't overcrowd the pan) until golden brown and remove to a paper towel-lined platter as soon as they're done.

4. Pour out the oil from the pan, leaving about 1 tbsp. in the pan. Heat over medium-high heat and saute the minced garlic for several seconds until fragrant. Next, add the dried chiles and cook for about 1 minute. Add the chicken and then the sauce, stirring until the sauce is heated through and slightly thickened. Stir in the scallions and fresh red chiles, then remove to a serving dish. 

Orange zest, dried red chiles, garlic, scallions, fresh red chiles & sauce.

Cornstarch, rice wine, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, white pepper, and sesame oil.

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs. The ones from Randall Farms all come nicely trimmed, saving me the trouble of doing it myself.

Cut the chicken into 1" dice.

Coat the chicken lightly in cornstarch, shaking off excess before frying.

Fry the chicken in batches until golden brown.

Drain on paper towel-lined tray.

Drain all but 1 tbsp. oil in the pan. Saute the garlic, then the dried and fresh red chiles.

Add the chicken and the sauce to the pan. Cook until sauce is thickened.

Stir in the scallions and fresh red chiles.

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