Thursday, June 21, 2007

Spicy Orange Chicken – So not authentic!

This low-cal version of the Chinese take-out favorite is tasty, easy, and a much healthier twist on the classic “Orange Chicken.” The main problem with the Chinese take-out version is that the pieces of chicken are first dipped in a batter, fried in oil, then wok fried again in the spicy, sweet orange glaze. While very delicious if done right, it is incredible high in calories. So, be warned, my version uses no oil and should not be compared to the style you many be used to. I’m just taking the same flavor profile; the sweet orange, the spicy chilies, the Asian condiments, from the traditional recipe and making something much lighter, but still very tasty.

If you’ve tried our Caramel Chicken recipe, this clip has a very similar procedure. As we did in that recipe, we also use a bit of Fish Sauce, which is well worth finding. Once an exotic “secret ingredient” only found in Asian kitchens, Fish Sauce is now found in all the higher-end grocery chains’ Asian food sections right next to the soy sauce. And, of course any Asian market will have several varieties that are probably far superior to the one I showed in the demo. If you can’t find it, this will still work, but since Fish Sauce has a unique salty flavor you may have to adjust with a bit more soy, or regular salt.

Now, as you’ll soon see I cooked this dish right in a regular old sauté pan. I don’t own a wok, and to be honest have never been a big fan. I know, I know, they are great for these stir-fries and you can put the food on the sides and the bottom stays hot, and blah, blah, blah, BUT for the average cook there are two main problems with the wok. One, to be used effectively you need a really hot flame. My “Sears special” gas stove just doesn’t crank out enough heat to really take advantage of the wok’s design. And, if you have an electric stove forget about it. If you ever saw the flame under a real wok in an Asian restaurant you would be amazed how insanely hot they are. The other problem is that 90% of the woks sold in American stores are cheap, poorly made, and almost impossible to “season” properly. By season I mean getting the wok’s cooking surface to the point where the food doesn’t easily stick, similar to seasoning a new cast iron pan.

The other reason I don’t have one is for the amount of times I would use it (assuming I had a nice gas stove and bought a well-made and properly seasoned wok), doesn’t justify the space that the thing takes up. Next time you are snooping around someone’s kitchen or pantry, notice which pan is always on the bottom of the stack, holding all the other pans… yep, that old dusty and probably rusty wok. But, for those of you that love woks, and use them regularly, God bless you (or Buddha). I’m happy you enjoy your wok, and by all means keep on woking! Enjoy the clip.

8-10 chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/8 cup fish sauce
1 tbl soy sauce
1 tbl grated ginger
1 bunch green onions
1 jalapeno pepper
1 bell pepper
4 oz sugar snap peas, or snow peas (a handful)
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp hot chili flakes

2 tbl orange zest
cilantro to garnish
*I served on some brown rice, which was a very nice combo with the orange flavors, since the brown rice has that slight nuttiness to it.


Steffen P said...

Absolutely awesome - defenetly gonna try this one. uhmmm :P

Here in DK we normally get a duck dish with an orange souce, which is awesome. Especially the sauce, which is awesomely fresh. Do you have a recipe on a orange sauce? Their version is totally orange in colour, and tastes just like biting into a really intese flavoured orange.

Chef John said...

The sauce sounds like fresh orange juice (and some zest) reduced by half and then thickened slightly with a corn starch slurry. Should be tons of recipes onine. As long as you use fresh sweet orange juice it will taste good.

Anonymous said...

looks very tasty. But, you really screwed up not using the red peppers!! ; ) Besides the yellow and orange bells always seem to cost more than the red and green. Not sure why, they all grow the same.

gromgull said...

Ah - cast iron pans - my grandmother gave me a new one a few years back, saying it's the best thing since sliced bread, but I remain unconvinced. It's a pain to clean or to season and crazy heavy, the only redeeming feature being that you can pop the whole thing in the oven for stews. I notice you only have the glazed variant in your cookware post. Does your reservations about Woks also cover normal cast iron pans? Remember that the honour of my grandmother is at stake!

Sorry for the slightly off-topic question.

Chef John said...

Yes, all the cast iron I have are the ceramic glazed type- Le Creuset. I dont have any strong feelings toward cast iron either way. I dont have a traditional cast iron pan like grandma. I use my regular stainless steel/copper bottom pan for most things. Or the non-stick when neccessary. Thanks for watching.

Anonymous said...

I've seen this same dish prepared the (non-battered) style too. The chef soaked the chicken in rice vinegar for many hours and then prepare it the same way you do. The rice vinegar seems to make the chicken a bit "crunchy" when you actually start to cook it.

Chef John said...

I dont like to keep the chicken in the vinegar for too long since it may start to "cook" from the acid (like a ceviche) and I think it gets a weird texture.

Anonymous said...

Good one! Lots of flavor.

I used 1/4 c of frozen concentrated orange juice and 1/3 c (less than the directions recommend for reconstituting) of water for the OJ and I put the marinade on another burner on high to get it reducing as soon as I added the chicken to the pan. It came together very quickly.

Anonymous said...

Chef John, could you please tell me which is more concentrated.
A Table spoon of freshly grated ginger or a Table spoon of ginger in a tube. If a recipe calls for 1/3 cup of grated ginger, can I use 1/3 cup of ginger in a tube? Thanks.

Chef John said...

they are basically the same. If the root is old it may not be as strong. But you should be OK with the same amount.

Anonymous said...

Your missing out Chef John, the wok is amazing, its so much easier to flip around food and miss around ingredients then the average saute pan

Anonymous said...

Great dish, I appreciated the good balance of flavors. I really hit it with about 2x the orange zest and 2-3x the chilis, so even better.

Yeah, the red bell pepper was a good color addition.

Minh "Sa" Chau said...

I also did my version of sauted orange chicken.. unfortunately i did not have any vegetables.

Phi said...

I let the chicken marinade overnight and was wondering why the texture came out a little hard/rubbery. It is probably because it cooked in the vinegar

I am a 20 something male, which is to say I have no natural cooking ability. I tried this recipe and it came out pretty good except for the texture of the chicken. I used green pepper instead of red, and carrots instead of sugar snap peas.

Chef John said...

yes overmarinated

Unknown said...

How long is too long to marinate this? I wanted to get everything ready before an afternoon shift I have next week and then cook it when I got home, which would be somewhere around four to five hours?
Also, how would it change it if I marinaded a whole chicken or duck breast?

Raybones said...

First time on your site. I find the list of ingredients, but no written instruction for Spicy Orange Chicken.
Am I not seeing it?