Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Orange Chicken

The smell of fresh oranges reminds me of my childhood winters. I have grown up knowing oranges to be a special part of my winter mid morning snacks where we bask under the mellow winter sun, peel fresh oranges, and savor the fresh fruit while enjoying the juicy tart and sweetness along with a round of good gossip. While all these things remain engraved in my memory, as time went by, I started loving oranges in sweet as well as savory avatars.

I have always liked the combination of sweet and sour; because of which I completely worship orange chicken. The first time I tasted orange chicken, my mouth reacted in quite a lot of different ways. My taste buds were dancing in tune to the gorgeously syrupy and fragrant dish– the chicken was crispy and juicy, the sauce was thick, gooey, sweet and savory all at the same time. However, my palette wasn’t satisfied until I tried replicating this sunny recipe and added notes of hot chilies making it delectably gratifying for my soul. This is something I always turn to during mood swings and it has never ceased to surprise me how a simple recipe could do wonders to the forever hungry soul ;)

As far my tinkering with the recipe goes, I have added chilies for the extra push and oomph. You can always omit that step. I suggest using fresh oranges in this recipe – the end product will not be the same if you use store bought orange juice or from the carton. If you want a healthier version, don’t deep dry the chicken, instead you can just dust it with a little flour (garlic powder and salt added for seasoning) and shallow fry it.

For the Marinade:

500 grams boneless chicken thighs cut into small pieces
1 cup Orange juice
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tbsp Garlic
1 tsp Ginger
Salt to taste
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
I suggest marinating a day earlier, if not it needs at least 3-4 hours in the fridge. Toss in all the ingredients together, cover and leave it overnight.

For the Paste:

3-4 tbsp Flour
1 tbsp Cornflour
½ cup Milk or enough to make a slurry
1 tbsp Garlic minced
1 Egg white
Salt to taste
Make a slurry out of the ingredients and set aside.

For the Chicken:

Take the chicken pieces out of the marinade and dry them with before dipping it in the slurry and deep frying it. Fry until golden brown and check for doneness of the chicken pieces. Drain the excess oil and set it aside.

For the Sauce:

1 tbsp Oil (any flavorless oil will do)
1 tsp Ginger (minced)
1 tbsp Garlic (minced)
1 cup Orange juice (fresh)
1 tsp orange zest
½ cup chicken stock
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste
3-4 tbsp Soy sauce (dark)
2 – 3 tbsp Sesame oil
2-3 tbsp Sesame seed (lightly toasted)
2 tbsp green or red chilies (chopped finely)
1 tsp corn flour (mixed with a little water)

In a pan, add the oil, chilies, ginger and garlic. Put it on low heat as we do not the garlic to burn. Once it turns golden, add the orange juice and chicken stock. Let it come to a bubble before adding the soy sauce, salt and sugar. This should be done on a high heat. Chuck in the seasonings and let it reduce to a syrupy consistency. Give it a taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.

I find it absolutely unnecessary to use the corn flour slurry as I like a very thick sauce coating the chicken. However, if you wish so, while the consistency of the sauce is still a little thin, add the corn flour slurry and make it into a nice gravy.

Once you are done with the sauce, throw in the chicken, toss it around and sprinkle the sesame seeds and zest on it. Just before taking it off the heat, drizzle the sesame oil.

Orange chicken can be eaten with just plain steamed rice, jasmine rice, fried rice or any kind of noodles. However I like to keep the integrity of the dish thereby brazenly indulge myself having it with no accompaniments.

Serve hot. Happy cooking!