Many people associate orange chicken with weeknight takeout. Strangely, I associate it with weekend brunch.
This might be a holdover from my 20s. After late nights out at friends' birthday parties and other such events, I would sometimes wake up very groggy and craving orange chicken from the corner takeout place. Sure, it was fried, sugary, and a bit greasy, but it was also perfect for eating in front of the TV with a large *strong* iced coffee. To some people this might sound very, um, odd. To me this combo was heaven on a Sunday morning after a few extra glasses of wine the night before.
These days, my preference for orange chicken veers towards the healthier homemade variety. The orange chicken that appears in my cookbook is a crunchy, shallow-fried dish that I tested again and again to get the coating crispy without being too greasy. And yesterday, when it was in the mid-80s and stuffy in my apartment, I tried a stir-fried spicy orange chicken recipe from Grace Young's Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge.
Grace's spicy orange chicken stir-fry is perfect for the summer. First, it's quick, so you don't have to spend much time in front of the stove. Second, you can use those incredibly flavorful summer tomatoes that are in the markets right now. The sauce isn't heavy at all. Even the spiciness is on the lighter side, with Sichuan pepper adding a floral, citrusy note. (You can always leave it out or substitute 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes.)
Spicy Orange Chicken
- 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/4-inch-thick bite-sized slices
- 2 tablespoons minced ginger
- 1 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 3/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
- 2 scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
- Peel of 1 orange, cut into skinny strips
- 1 teaspoon chili bean sauce
- 1 medium ripe tomato, cut into thin wedges
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- Marinate the chicken: In a large bowl, combine the chicken with 1 tablespoon of the ginger, 1 tablespoon of the rice wine, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch, sugar, white pepper, and ground Sichuan pepper. Stir to combine and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine the rice vinegar, the remaining 1 tablespoon rice wine, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch.
- Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon ginger and stir-fry for 10 seconds, just until the ginger is fragrant.
- Push the ginger to the sides of the wok. Carefully add the chicken, spread it evenly in one layer in the wok, and allow it to sear undisturbed for 1 minute. Add the orange strips, scallion whites, and chili bean sauce. Stir-fry for 1 minute, until the chicken is lightly brown but not yet cooked through.
- Add the tomatoes and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Re-stir the rice vinegar mixture and add it to the wok. Add the salt. Stir-fry for another 1 minute, or until the chicken is cooked through. Transfer to a plate and serve.