Sunday, February 24, 2013

Homemade Panda Express Orange Chicken

When our son was little (around age 2), he developed a very odd habit that puzzled us completely - when we were out and about in the car, he would suddenly exclaim, "Catfish!" and usually get very excited and then very upset about it. It took us months to realize that "catfish" was his version of "Panda Express"! He later updated to "Panda Effresk" and then finally to the real deal. It is still his favorite food. However, with a budget of, oh, zero, it isn't an indulgence that we can afford!

With that in mind, last week I decided to try making our own. It was fun! We first tried this recipe, but the consensus was that the sauce was not sweet enough. I then made extra sauce from a different recipe to go with the leftovers, and it was highly approved by all involved. (The two recipes are identical except for the sauce.)

Oddly enough, that sauce doesn't actually include any orange products (zest or juice), so next time I'm going to add some zest. But one way or another, reports are that it was pretty good!

Mise en place for sauce #1 (with eggs on the right for me since I couldn't eat any of it!). 

Plan on spending some serious time with the frying process - at least half an hour if not more. My husband did all the frying while I attended to everything else, and it was definitely quite a process!

Our in-house fry cook. 

Frying in process. It took ALL NIGHT to recover the kitchen after this! 
I spent some time rearranging the recipe to make it more user-friendly - the way that it is written out in the various versions online is fairly confusing and difficult to wade through (at least to me!). Hopefully this version will be easier for the reader to use!

Before sauce.... 

And the finished product! Voila!  I served it over whole-wheat spaghetti because I was too tired to even think about making chow mein! 

Panda Express Style Orange Chicken 

Sauce: Combine and set aside:

1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce 
1 1/2 tablespoon water 
5 tablespoons sugar 
5 tablespoons white vinegar 
1 tsp. orange zest, optional 

Mix together:

2 pounds chicken pieces, boneless and skinned 
1 egg 
1 1/2 teaspoons salt 
White pepper (I used 1/2 tsp. black pepper)
1 tablespoon oil 

Mix together, then add chicken and stir to coat:

1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup flour

Heat oil for deep-frying in wok or deep-fryer to 375 degrees F. Add chicken pieces, a small batch at time, and fry 3 to 4 minutes or until golden and crisp. Do not overcook or chicken will be tough. Remove chicken from oil with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside.

(See below for amounts) Clean wok and heat 15 seconds over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Add ginger and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant. Add and stir-fry crushed chiles and green onions. Add rice wine and stir 3 seconds. Add Orange Sauce and bring to boil. Add cooked chicken, stirring until well mixed.

1 tablespoon ginger root, minced 
1 teaspoon garlic, minced 
1 dash red hot chilies 
1/4 cup green onions, chopped 
1 tablespoon rice wine (or sherry) 

Stir together, add to above, stir till thick: 

1 tablespoon cornstarch 
1/4 cup water 

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Enjoy! Let me know if you have any input or suggestions!


  1. I bet you can make this low-carb. In the sauce, use a few drops of liquid stevia instead of the sugar; perhaps reduce the amount of water by a tiny amount, to counteract the reduction in volume of no sugar.

    For the breading of the chicken, instead of coating it with cornstarch and flour, dip it in egg and deep-fry. This doesn't work well in a shallow fry-pan, but since you're deep frying anyway, it should work great. [This is how I make my "hot wings" -- dip chicken pieces in beaten egg and deep-fry; when cooked, dump into a bowl of hot sauce. I've done a variation, using honey instead; also good.] The egg makes a low-carb crispy coating and is yummy.

    The penultimate step of thickening the sauce may just need to be skipped, and the sauce will just be a little thin.

  2. Yum! What an awesome idea, Kathy! I may have to give that a try! :)


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