Most restaurant versions of Orange Peel Chicken are often deep-fried, or if not that, then coated in flour and sautéed in oil until it drips with it. But there’s a way to create a healthy version of Orange Chicken at home. There’s a neat trick I’ve learned from an older Szechuan cookbook, The Good Food of Szechwan by Robert A. Delfs, called “velveting.” The idea behind this is that the meat, which here is chicken, is coated in a mixture of egg whites, rice wine and salt. You can use cornstarch but it’s not necessary — and when left out, you’ll also drop calories from the finished dish. What you end up with are tender, lightly browned pieces of meat without leaving any protein shreds behind in the sauce. Think of it as self-encasement, if you will. The chicken pieces stay juicy without the fatty buildup, and have an almost velvet texture.
Let me know if you think there’s an enormous difference in flavor from fried restaurant versions. I think you won’t find one.
Healthy Orange Chicken Recipe
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced into 1″ pieces
1 egg, separating yolk and white (discard yolk or save for another use)
1 T low-salt soy sauce
1 T rice wine
1/3 cup fresh orange juice, strained
2 T minced garlic
2 scallions, sliced into 1/4″ pieces
Note: East-West Orange sauce is available on Amazon or at many large grocery chains. I’ve seen it in small, neighborhood markets, too. It’s sweet, tangy and with 200mg sodium per tablespoon, it has a relatively low salt content.
1 T chili sauce, such as Sambal Oelek
6 T canola oil, divided
peel of one orange, half in 1/2 inch strips, the rest in 1 inch strips
1 5-ounce clamshell fresh baby spinach leaves, to wilt
1/4 cup low-salt chicken broth
Prepare rice according to steamer directions.
Place egg white in medium bowl. Add rice wine and soy sauce. Stir to combine. Add diced chicken and stir to coat. Velvet chicken for 10-30 minutes.
Heat 2 T canola oil in large skillet or wok over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drain chicken and discard egg white mixture. Lower heat to medium and stir fry chicken in oil until it turns white and is slightly browned. Remove chicken to paper towel lined plate to drain.
Mix orange juice, East-West Orange Sauce and Sambal Oelek in mixing cup.
Add 2 T oil to skillet and warm on medium-low heat. Add garlic and orange peels to skillet and cook for 30 seconds until garlic releases its essence.
Return chicken to skillet and coat with sauce mixture. Cook over low heat for 5-7 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and sauce has thickened slightly. Remove larger strips of orange peel before serving.
While chicken is simmering in sauce, warm 2 T oil in large skillet. Add fresh spinach and chicken broth to another skillet, stirring to coat. Cover with tight fitting lid and steam spinach over medium heat for 3 minutes, or until wilted. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Serves 2. Can be easily doubled.
Stephanie Davis not only knows about wine pairing, she’s pretty great at beer, too. Steph says, without hesitation, pour yourself a frosty glass of New Belgium’s Citradelic Tangerine IPA. This thirst-quencher is perfect with spicy and salty foods. Big on flavor and medium bodied, it’s the sort of palate refresher needed with a power-packed dish.
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Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, illuminating the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished, https://www.facebook.com/EmilyKemme, or on Twitter @EmFeedsYou . Life inspired. Vodka tempered.
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