Whether you miss the food court at the mall, your college campus, or one of the other roughly 2,200 places you can find the fast-food American Chinese restaurant Panda Express, we have the solution.
Yes, it does require some work – and a deep fryer (or substitute) – but in these somewhat lonely days at home when you’ve earned comfort food just for getting through the day, let’s just say that the ingredients and tools might not be a bad investment.
In fact, this might just be so delicious that you save yourself some money by making it at home forever!
Ready to make that sticky sweet, sauce-covered chicken?
If it helps, the recipe is straight from Chef Jimmy Wang of Panda Express himself, so you know it’s going to be good!
We have one important word of advice:
Read the whole recipe first to see what you’re getting into! There are 3 parts and you have to be ready for things to move quickly towards the end. (There is a video version at the end.)
Your prep time is a mere 20 minutes and your cook time is just 15 minutes.
Total cooking time: 1 hr 5 min
(Ok, so it’s an investment, but plenty of good meals are! We promise 30 of those minutes are time you can use to zone out.)
This batch is for 8 servings. At least according to Chef Wang, but he’s not watching, so do what you need to do.
To make the fried chicken, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of white pepper
- 1 cup of cornstarch
- 3 cups of flour
- 1 egg
- 1 ½ cups of water
- 2 tablespoons of oil
- 6 cups of oil, for frying in your deep fryer (peanut or canola works best)
But that’s not all. This delicious meal is all about the ooey-gooey Orange Sauce. So here’s what you’ll need to make that (but don’t make it ahead of time!):
- 1 tablespoon of oil
- ¼ teaspoon of chili flakes
- 1 tablespoon of garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon of ginger, minced
- ¼ cup of sugar
- ¼ cup of brown sugar
- ¼ cup of orange juice
- ¼ cup of white distilled vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of water
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
Here’s how you’ll prep the ingredients:
1. Get out your cutting board and measuring cups.
In fact, this might be a time for a mise en place. That’s a trick culinary students use to give their full attention to cooking by laying out all the pre-measured ingredients. It will also help avoid any last-minute bad news that you’re missing something you need. And it looks pretty, so you’re bound to feel classier about making Orange Chicken at home.
2. Now, begin cutting your chicken into 1×1 inch cubes and place them in a large bowl. Trim off the fat you don’t want first, then set them aside.
3. Use a medium mixing bowl to combine your dry ingredients – the salt, white pepper, cornstarch, and flour. Then, use a whisk (or a fork) to combine them thoroughly.
4. Next, add your wet ingredients – the egg, water, and oil – to the same mixing bowl as the dry ingredients.
It should look like pancake batter when you’re done with it. See?
5. Now grab your cut up chicken and toss it in the bowl of batter. Stir to coat is all.
This will be the “breading” on your deep-friend chicken.
6. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap and stick it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to chill.
This is an important step, so don’t skip it! It really helps with the deep-frying!
7. While your chicken is chilling get your deep fryer ready. The temperature should be about 350˚F (or 180˚C).
Everyone has a different set-up for their deep fryers and some folks feel safe using a hot wok or deep pan. Follow the directions for what you choose carefully, paying special attention to the kind of oil you use.
The oil you use for deep-frying should have a high smoke point! You’re going to need something like peanut or canola oil for this. Some insist vegetable oil and other oils are fine, but do your research first (aka just Google it) and stay safe and smoke-free.
8. Once you heat up your oil (as per the instructions of your frying setup), you’ll take some tongs and gently drop in your chicken piece by piece. If you pour in a whole bunch, they’ll stick together.
Do this in batches so things cook evenly. For example, quickly put in 12-15 pieces at a time, let them cook, and then add the next batch.
When a batch finishes cooking for 5-6 minutes, it’ll be lightly golden brown (so watch it AND time it).
You’re doing great! This part is stressful for novices, but once you do it you’ll realize it was pretty easy to master after 1 or 2 tries.
9. Now, get your mesh or slotted spoon and retrieve your cooked chicken. Then gently place it onto a cookie sheet covered in paper towels to soak up any excess oil.
Making sure the chicken isn’t oily on the outside will also help the sauce stick.
You should have a sheet pan/cookie sheet full of delicious chicken. And we wouldn’t blame you if you popped one in your mouth to taste test (as long as it was one from the first batch that had time to cool off).
Now you’re ready for the final round – the orange sauce! And it’s almost time to eat!
10. Get your ingredients for the orange sauce out and ready. Then put a heavy-bottomed non-stick pan on the stove and turn it on medium-high heat.
11. Add your oil and give it a moment to heat up. Once you can tilt the pan and the oil becomes runny, you’re ready for more ingredients.
12. Next, add your red pepper flakes, ginger, and garlic and cook them for 30 seconds, stirring them with a wooden spoon or spatula.
13. After that, you’ll add the white and brown sugars and stir those in as well.
Things will be getting a little bubbly, and that’s ok. Just don’t leave it alone at this point!
14. Next, you’ll add your orange juice, which will cool things off a bit. This will allow the sugars to dissolve, so stir this with your spoon or spatula to give it a chance to do that. Stir until you can’t see the sugar crystals anymore.
15. Things will get bubbly again and it’s all good! Just continue by adding your vinegar and soy sauce. Then, combine those into your sauce.
16. Now, grab a separate bowl and mix your cornstarch and water together with a whisk. It’s VERY important to stir it until you get the lumps out because if you add lumps to the hot pan, it’s going to be nearly impossible to get a smooth sauce.
17. Add the smooth cornstarch mixture from your bowl to the pan of hot ingredients and continue to stir.
18. Keep heating the sauce until you get a consistency that looks like maple syrup.
19. Finally, add all of your fried chicken to the pan in batches with your tongs. Stir gently until each piece is completely coated in the sauce.
If you stir too aggressively, you might tear some of the breading off the chicken.
20. Then simply top it all with sesame oil and you’re done!
YOU DID IT!
It’s going to be delicious. Now all you have to do is slide it onto a plate and admire your creation, which should look a little something like this:
Watch the video recipe to get an idea of what all of this looks like in action!
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