This is a shameless copycat recipe. I love copycat recipes - my favorite foods that I can't get all the time from my favorite restaurants, made so I can cook them at home! For those of you who live in the vicinity of a Panda Express, this recipe doesn't need a drop of explanation. I'm pretty sure this is one of their most popular entrees, at least at our house anyway! For those of you that don't, Panda Express Orange Chicken is a sweet, spicy, crunchy, covered-in-sticky-sauce chicken dish. We always buy a big container of it every time we go...it's definitely our favorite and there's usually not any left over! Serve it with rice and stir-fried veggies and you're good to go!
Chinese food can be a little intimidating to cook, mostly because there are usually lots of ingredients and it's time consuming. I usually make several kinds of Chinese food at the same time so that makes it even harder. Everything always seems to happen so fast and you're scrambling to get things ready to go in. I've found that the key to making it is to prep all the ingredients. Separate them into bowls and have them arranged in the order they'll go in. Yeah, it'll make a few extra dishes, but that's all right with me if it keeps my sanity intact.
I also simplified this recipe a lot from the original I found (somewhere online, just searching for a copycat recipe), and tweaked the sauce to taste more like Panda Express'. When I make this and my other recipe that calls for breaded chicken, General Tso's Chicken, I make all the chicken at once, with the Orange Chicken breading, fry it all at once, and then separate it into two bowls for the two different kinds of chicken. Sorry there's no picture, I meant to take one last night but we always eat it too fast. I hope you all enjoy this recipe, we certainly do!
"Panda Express" Orange Chicken
2 lbs. chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
Fresh ground pepper
1 T. oil
1/2 c. cornstarch
1/4 c. flour
Oil for frying
1 T. gingerroot, minced (or 1 t. dry ground ginger)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. crushed red pepper (adjust to taste, this is pretty spicy for me and fairly mild for Luke)
1/4 c. green onion, chopped
1 T. rice or white wine vinegar
1/4 c. water, mixed with 1 T. cornstarch
1/2 t. sesame oil
Sauce: (Mix together in a bowl)
5 T. soy sauce
5 T. sugar
5 T. rice or white wine vinegar
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of 2 oranges
Coat chicken in egg, salt and pepper and 1 T. oil; mix well. Stir cornstarch and flour into the chicken. Heat oil in a wok (about an inch deep in a wok) over medium heat, and add chicken in batches, frying until crisp and browned on the outside. (I usually cut open a piece from the first batch to make sure it's cooking through.) Remove chicken as it finishes, and put in a bowl lined with paper towels to drain. Clean out the wok; add 1 T. oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add gingerroot, garlic, onions, crushed red pepper, and rice wine vinegar, stir until the onions begin to soften and garlic turns golden. Add the orange sauce and bring to a boil. Stir in the 1/4 cup of water mixed with the cornstarch, and heat until it starts to thicken. Add the chicken to the sauce and cook until the sauce is thick.