It started with sweet and sour chicken – “it” as in my kids’ introduction to Chinese food! Few years have passed since then and now their all-time favorite dish to order at a Chinese restaurant is orange chicken – crispy fried morsels of bite size chicken pieces that are lightly coated in an orange and soy infused glaze. If you are lucky to have had the opportunity to bite into one of these perfectly prepared chicken pieces, you can easily see why this dish is so popular with kids and adults alike.
Having said that, not all orange chicken dishes are created equal. Actually not even close! I have had many an encounter with tiny crumbs of chicken clinging to their dear reputation in mounds of soggy breading/batter. There have been instances of good balance between meat and batter, but the meat could have seen better days. And there have been instances when both meat and batter were just right, except for the overload of barely wet dried orange rinds with overly sweet concoction of what is supposed to be a delicious orange sauce.
Hmph! So, having had one of those episodes recently, I figured why not make a version at home that will hopefully not only taste better, but better for you as well. Chicken breast, oven “fried” rather than deep fried, just a touch of brown sugar rather than corn syrup or other concoctions??!! Yep, you got it!
So, armed with all-white chicken meat, fresh oranges (for both the zest and the juice) and panko bread crumbs, I braved myself to trust my senses of taste and smell and recreate a dish that is enjoyed by my family, especially my kids.
This dish surpassed all my expectations, especially when it came to the texture of the cooked chicken and the perfectly balanced sweet-sour-spicy nature of the sauce/glaze. Panko coating left the chicken pieces crispy and held out quite strong even with the glaze on top. I deep fried a small batch of chicken coated in egg and cornstarch but my kids preferred the oven “fried” version with panko because of its texture and taste! I couldn’t be happier! 🙂
So, here is a disclaimer…I have not traveled to the Hunan province of China to really know what this dish is supposed to taste like. So, this is purely based on my experience enjoying crispy battered chicken coated in a citrusy/orange soy glaze. 🙂 Enjoy at your own will!