"If you can make Kung Pao Chicken like this, we won't ever have to go out to a Chinese restaurant again." The words of a wise and very happy husband!! I saw this recipe online and even though I consider myself a HUGE follower of Annie's Eats, I just had to try it anyways. I know a lot of my recipes are from her website but I just don't have nearly enough cookbooks or experience to be able to do things like this on my own yet. I'll be honest in that I was very nervous about deep frying the chicken pieces coated in cornstarch but it worked out amazingly and I wouldn't do it any other way! If you like orange chicken (or you are even on the fence about it), this recipe will change your world, promise. This recipe is actually supposed to be a knock-off to Panda Express and I can say (since I eat there a lot) that this recipe is MUCH MUCH MUCH better than theirs!
For the marinade and sauce:
¾ cup chicken broth
¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 ½ tsp finely grated orange zest
6 Tbsp white vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
½ cup brown sugar, packed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped into 1-inch bite-sized pieces
1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp cold water
8 thin strips orange peel (optional)
For coating and frying:
3 large egg whites
1 cup cornstarch
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
3 cups peanut or canola oil
To make the marinade and sauce, combine the chicken broth, juice, zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper in large saucepan. Whisk to blend well. Set aside ¾ cup of the mixture and transfer to an airtight tupperware container. Add the chicken pieces to the tupperware, seal and refrigerate about 30-60 minutes (no longer).
Place the saucepan on the stove and heat over medium-high heat, bringing to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and water until well incorporated and add it to the saucepan. Continue to simmer until the sauce thickens and becomes translucent, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange peel, if using.
To prepare the coating, place egg whites in a pie plate and whisk until frothy. In a second pie plate, combine the cornstarch, baking soda and cayenne pepper. Whisk to blend well. Drain the chicken from the tupperware container in a strainer in the sink, but BE SURE TO SAVE THE SAUCE! To do this most effectively, pick out the chicken pieces with a slotted spoon or tongs. Pat dry with a paper towel (they don’t have to be perfectly dry). Place half of the chicken in the egg whites and turn to coat. Transfer them to the second pie plate with cornstarch mixture and set aside on a clean plate. Repeat with second half of chicken pieces.
To fry the chicken, heat oil in an 11- or 12-inch round dutch oven or straight-sided sauté pan until the oil reads 350 degrees F. Use a candy thermometer to read this. Carefully (without splattering hot oil) place half of the chicken pieces in the oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Be sure to flip them about halfway through the cooking time. Remove from the oil with a metal skimmer and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Return the oil to 350 degrees and repeat with remaining chicken pieces.
If desired, place cooked chicken pieces back into the saucepan with the orange sauce and heat on low a few minutes to reheat the sauce. Serve over a bed of white rice.