Orange Chicken

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orange chickenTraditionally, Chinese cuisines tend to concentrate more on vegetables and grains and less on meat/poultry.  As it made its way towards the Western hemisphere, Chinese food has become increasingly popular in other parts of the world  such as the Americas, Australia, Western Europe and Southern Africa. Chinese food has also become a specialty among  the  Jewish populace (I include myself), especially on Christmas and Passover eve (guilty). Don’t ask me why because I am unable to provide an explanation among this growing phenomenon.

Orange chicken is one of my favorite Chinese dishes. I order this dish every time I go out to eat at a Chinese restaurant. Unfortunately, like a lot of other ethnic cuisines these days, Chinese food, especially chicken, tends to be saturated in oil and loaded with MSG. As delicious as they are, as someone who is health conscious, I can’t overlook the unsavory nutritious facts. And I utterly loathe greasy food.  But rather than permanently cancel out Chinese food altogether, I try looking for renditions that are not heavy in sodium and oil. That is how I’m still able to cling to the food I enjoy most whilst curtailing the calories,sodium, and fat content to my best ability.

For this recipe, I used skinless chicken breasts as they don’t nearly contain as much fat as chicken thighs and legs.  Secondly, I used fresh orange juice from oranges rather than using concentrated orange juice. Yes, it may be more labor intensive to have to manually juice each orange but it saves you calories.  I noticed that a lot of people like to use marmalade in the makings of orange chicken.  Although I happen to like marmalade myself, it is loaded with sugar. While a bit of sweetness in crucial in a lot of Chinese dishes, I prefer to minimize the usage of sugar as much as I possibly can. I find that orange zest  does just as a good job accentuating the tangy flavor in orange chicken.

But there is still that concern with MSG. A lot of Asian cuisines require soy sauce. Soy sauce does contain copious amount of MSG and sodium. So does teriyaki sauce for that matter. That is why we don’t normally use large dosages of soy sauce. I generally use low-sodium soy sauce. I like to use a small chili pepper for a bit of fiery sensation but you can leave it out if you don’t share my (heart) burning desire for some extra spice (I had to throw that lame pun in. Sue me).  And don’t forget the veggies.

A heavily protein meal must be balance out with vegetables. I used assorted frozen Chinese vegetables. If you can’t find any at the frozen section of your supermarket, you can use chopped fresh peppers,celery,onion,broccoli, long green beans, bok choy, etc. Like most Chinese food, you should use a wok to cook the orange chicken in. This chicken serves well hot with whole grain rice or noodles.  Garnish with chopped green scallions and toasted sesame seeds (optional).

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 4 tablespoons of peanut or vegetable oil
  2. 1 lbs of chicken breasts cut into cubes
  3. 1 onion chopped
  4. 1 tablespoon of cornstarch plus more for dredging
  5. 1 tablespoon of fresh mince garlic
  6. 1 tablespoon of fresh minced ginger
  7. 1 small chili pepper minced (optional)
  8. 1 tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce
  9. Orange juice from 4 oranges
  10. 1 tablespoon of orange zest
  11. 1/4 cup of rice vinegar
  12. 1/8 cup of sesame oil
  13. 2/3 cup of heated broth or water
  14. Salt and pepper for taste

In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch,orange juice,soy sauce,sesame seed oil  and rice vinegar,  until well combined. Set aside. Heat a large wok over medium- high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil. Dredge chicken pieces in cornstarch. Place them in the wok and saute them for 1 1/2 minute or until a nice golden sear appears on each side. Remove from wok and set aside. Add the 2 remaining tablespoons of oil. When oil is hot enough, add the chopped onions and stir-fry until they turn glossy and bright, 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic,ginger, and chili pepper and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the Chinese vegetables  and stir-fry until they are glossy and tender. Add the broth/water and continue to stir-fry. Return the chicken to the wok.  Pour in the orange juice mixture and continue to cook until thick and bubbly. Sprinkle with chopped green scallions and toasted sesame seeds.

Yields 4-6 servings

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