Traveling the world through cuisine

Wait, that's not Slovak!

Panda Express

You know, it’s always funny how no matter where we live and what we have around us, there are always things we desire that just aren’t in our neck of the woods (but we experienced them somewhere else). For me, traveling to places like Slovakia, Greece, Austria, and Hungary made me appreciate smoked cheeses, natural produce, and even interesting meals one cannot experience unless they seek out ethnic specialty restaurants.

For Zuzana’s mother, it’s orange chicken from the fast food chain Panda Express.  I’ll admit as unhealthy as their orange chicken is, it is quite tasty. Zuzana’s mother first experienced the chain when she came over to America with her daughter to help her get set up here in the states. She was hooked and even makes it a point to get the chicken whenever she’s in America.

Now in Slovakia, they do have some Chinese restaurants, but none really make anything close to this orange chicken. In their malls, most of their food courts contain cafes, schnitzel booths, and even one chain that makes fresh seafood and sandwiches. Not your typical McDonald’s, Subway, Starbucks, Taco Bell, and Panda Express combos that we have here.

So with this recent visit to Bratislava, it was requested that I show Zuzana’s mother how to make this orange chicken, despite that I’ve never made it.  Thankfully, we have the internet where I can look it up.  One Google search and I came across several recipes for the bonna-fide Panda Express orange chicken.  I ended up going with this one from Recipe Goldmine.

Before heading out to Europe though, I wanted to make sure I had it down here at home.  So I tried the recipe and I admit it was tasty and it did taste like Panda Express’ chicken, but if you know me I don’t like to eat junk food on a regular basis.  I always like to find a healthier way to do things.

The most interesting part of the recipe is that “bad stuff” isn’t in the sauce.  The unhealthy part of the dish is in the coating of the chicken and deep-frying it. First thought that came into my mind? Forget the coating and grill it!

Here’s what turned out:

Grilled Orange Chicken

Grilled Orange Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of orange juice
  • 3 tsp of orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp of sugar
  • 2 tbsp of chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp of light soy sauce
  • 2 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
  • 6 tbsp of oil
  • 1 tbsp of ginger
  • 1 tsp of garlic
  • 1/4 cup of green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp of crushed red pepper
  • 1 tbsp of rice wine
  • 1 tsp of sesame oil

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, combine the orange juice, orange zest, sugar, chicken stock, and soy sauce. Give it a good stir and set aside.
  2. Coat the chicken with 4 tbsp of the oil and then place it on the grill. Cook until juices run clear.
  3. In a wok or frying pan, heat up the last 2 tbsp of oil over medium heat.
  4. Add in the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant.
  5. Add in the green onion and crushed red pepper. Stir and cook for a minute or two.
  6. Add in the rice wine and stir for a few seconds, then add in the orange sauce you made in step 1.
  7. Stir the ingredients and wait until the mixture comes to a boil.
  8. When the mixture is boiling, add in the chicken and stir to coat.
  9. Continue cooking the mixture until sauce reduces to desired thickness or mixture is well cooked.
  10. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sesame oil.

Quick Notes

I estimated the four tablespoons of oil to coat the chicken. Just make sure the chicken pieces are coated so they won’t stick to the grill and will get golden.

You’re free to use ginger powder, minced ginger in a jar, or fresh ginger root. I would suggest though to use fresh garlic and not garlic powder for this one.

I variated from the Recipe Goldmine recipe by adding more orange zest and juice. You should be able to get all the orange needs from two large oranges. I did this because in both the test run and for Zuzi’s mother, the result did not have a good orange flavor to it. Doubling the amounts made up for it.

If your sauce seems too liquid, then either coat the chicken very well with it and dump some of it, or pour some of it out into a cup, stir in a tablespoon of cornstarch, then slowly add it back into the mixture to thicken it. I like this technique better because you won’t dilute the flavor with added water.

Serving Suggestions

You’re free to do any way you like, but I prefer this chicken on top of rice. You can also try it with rice noodles.

Tags: chicken, chinese, grilled, orange, Panda Express

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