A new twist on orange chicken

Peeling an orange releases a spritz of natural oils that coats fingers in citrus scent, teasing the fruit within. The floral zest and j...


Peeling an orange releases a spritz of natural oils that coats fingers in citrus scent, teasing the fruit within. The floral zest and juicy segments are easy to love, but the marrow in between, not so much.

In its raw state, the white pith is painfully bitter, but that bitterness is what makes eating the whole orange worthwhile. Usually the skin is destined for the trash, but it has the potential to be delicious. When simmered until tender, it soaks up the flavor of the cooking liquid while retaining its razor-sharp edge – just enough to slice through the tart sweetness of the fruit and showcase the hint flowers.

Using the whole orange is a good idea for desserts because you can Candy all or mix it in cake batter, but it is also delicious in savory dishes. The obvious example: chicken with orange from Panda Express (and now most Chinese restaurants to take away). Although there are no chunks of orange among the little rocks of fried chicken in sauce, the popular American Chinese dish was inspired by Chinese dishes that use the fruit itself.

Nearly 35 years ago, chef Andy Kao created the dish, along with company founder and chairman Andrew Cherng, for Panda Express’ first Hawaiian location. They were inspired by many things, including local flavors, as well as a Sichuan beef stir-fry with dried mandarin peels, a Taiwanese fried chicken dish, and the sweet and sour flavors of the Jiangsu region of China. .

“The concept of using citrus as a flavoring is actually a traditional tenet of Chinese cuisine,” said Andrea Cherng, the company’s brand manager. (I attended high school with Ms. Cherng.)

Like many American Chinese dishes – really, most dishes – a recipe is born from overlapping influences, even if it has a distinct origin story. The path to formulating a meal is less of a straight road and more of a winding road.

For that orange roast chickenone of my ways to cook american chinese food at home, the take-out version is just an inspiration.

Another is whole tangerines, which flavor every element of the dish and have thin skins that lose their bitterness faster than oranges. After some fruits have been pressed for the Ginger Soy Glaze, their spent peels are stuffed into the chicken. Other tangerine wedges cook alongside the bird in the same pan, their pits softening in the sauce that lacquers the bird.

The skin ends up being deeply golden and the meat silky, reminiscent of the Chicken with cantonese soy sauce I was brought up on. As much as I love the zest of Chinese dried mandarins, their ocher fragments curved like petals but stiff like bark, I wanted the juiciness of fresh fruit in this preparation. You don’t have to eat the tangerines from the pan, but if you do, with a bite of glaze-smoothed chicken, you’ll taste the surprising pleasure of bitterness balanced with the simple joys of saltiness, sweetness and tanginess. the sour one.

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