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 a cloyingly 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 by adding some fresh lemon juice in addition to the orange juice, a little fresh minced ginger, hoisin sauce and freshly grated orange zest to give it an extra boost of orange flavor. I doubled the sauce recipe and also dredged the diced chicken first in beaten eggs and then dredged in cornstarch before frying. Really good with steamed white rice.

3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1" dice

1-2 cups cornstarch

2 eggs

Vegetable oil

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 fresh red chile (Jalapeno or Fresno), seeded and thinly sliced
3 scallions, chopped

6 tbsp. soy sauce
4 tbsp. Hoisin sauce
2 tbsp. rice wine
2 cups fresh orange juice
6 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (or juice of 1 lemon)
1 tbsp. freshly grated orange zest
8 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
6 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. white pepper

Cornstarch Slurry (combine in small bowl):

2 tbsp. cornstarch
3-4 tbsp. water

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

2.  Set up your dredging station: place 1-2 cups of cornstarch on a plate or shallow casserole dish; beat 2 eggs in another shallow casserole dish.

3. Place the diced chicken in a single layer on a plate. Season lightly with salt.

4. 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. 

5. Dredge the diced chicken first in egg wash and then in the cornstarch until lightly but thoroughly coated. Place the coated chicken into the hot oil and cook 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.

6. After all the chicken has been fried, pour out most of the oil from the pan, leaving about 1 tbsp. Heat over medium-high heat and saute the minced garlic and ginger for several seconds until fragrant. Next, add the sauce and bring to a boil, stirring frequently

7. Stir the cornstarch slurry into the sauce and stir constantly until the sauce has thickened, about 1 minute. Stir in the scallions and fresh red chiles and turn off the heat. 

8.  There are two ways to serve this dish: place the fried chicken pieces onto a serving plate and pour the sauce over it (there's a lot of sauce in this recipe, so you can control the amount of sauce you want on the chicken by serving it this way) OR, you can just toss the chicken in with the sauce in the pan. 

Garnish the final plate with extra scallions and sliced chiles, if desired. Serve asap, while the coating on the chicken is still crisp.

Orange zest, 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.

First dredge the seasoned chicken in egg wash, then coat 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 and minced ginger for a few seconds. In this photo, I had added some dried chiles to the ginger-garlic mixture for an extra kick of spice, but you can omit this step.

Sauce, thickening with cornstarch slurry.

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