Wednesday, February 13, 2013

On the Menu: Chinese Food

Are your chopsticks ready?

We've got some yummy recipes for your tastebuds this week! I grew up in an area with many, many Chinese restaurants and I love Chinese food.  The rice, and noodles, bbq pork, egg rolls, and of course, the many different entrees to choose from -YUM!  But, I realize that not every area has good Chinese food.  I went to visit family in Wisconsin and they made "chow mein" with cream of mushroom soup, soy sauce, and those crunchy fried noodles from a can.  They didn't know good Chinese.  So this week I'll try to find some easy dishes with simple ingredients.  I'm still going low carb (lost 6 lbs so far!) so I'll put the original recipe and what changes I made in parentheses for those who might want a wheat-free/gluten free alternative.  Our first recipe is my kids' favorite- Orange Chicken!  Now, let me prefix this by saying that my kids like the Orange Chicken from Panda Express which, in case you are unfamiliar, is battered and fried pieces of chicken in a very sweet and syrupy sauce. Hard to do low carb.  I found this recipe for an authentic orange chicken from  and it is much healthier but still sweet and citrusy.

Orange Chicken
For the recipe you will need:
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken 
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • white pepper or black is fine
  • 1/2 c plus 1 Tbsp Cornstarch (I used Coconut Flour)
  • 1/4 c Flour (I used Chickpea Flour)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger- minced
  • 1 tsp garlic - minced
  • dash crushed red chili flakes
  • 1/4 chopped green onion (we didn't have any)
For sauce:
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest- grated
  • 1/4 c orange juice - fresh is best
  • 2 Tbsp chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce (look for wheat free)
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine (I couldn't find this so I used Sparkling Sake from Trader Joes's - they said it was close)
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 5 tsp granulated sugar (I used stevia)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch (I used coconut flour)
1. Combine all the sauce ingredients and set aside.
2. Cut chicken into small chunks and place in large bowl.  Stir in egg, salt and pepper and mix well.
3. Mix cornstarch and flour together in another bowl and add a few chicken pieces at a time to coat.
4. Heat oil to 375° in wok, fry pan or deep fryer and cook chicken a few pieces at a time for 4-5 minutes until golden and crisp. ( I didn't read this step and threw it all in at the same time - took longer and was kind of soggy, but that might have been the different flour substitutions also?)  Remove to paper towels and repeat with rest of chicken..
4. Clean wok, or frying pan, and heat 1 Tbsp of oil.  Add ginger and garlic and stir-fry until they are fragrant.  Add the chilies and green onions and cook for a minute then add the cooked chicken and mix everything a few times before adding the orange sauce.  Cook for a minute or so to thicken the sauce. 
5. Serve with rice (I used brown) and a vegetable.

Ok, this got some mixed reviews but only because my kids were expecting the syrupy, sweet orange chicken.  It was actually pretty darn tasty and my brother said it tasted better than he "expected"!  Kind of a back-handed compliment but I'll take it!  He thinks anything "healthy" tastes bad, but he'll eat it or starve unless he wants to make his own dinner :)  I think with real flour and, well, proper reading of the directions, it would be very crispy, but even a little soggy it still tasted good.  I didn't have much sauce because the coconut flour really soaked it up but I thought it added a little extra flavor.  All in all, I'd say give it a shot- it's better than cream of mushroom soup with crunchy noodles :)

For (everyone else's) dessert we had a plate of sweets from the Asian market.  They were assorted cookies, sesame  and  peanut brittle packaged up for Chinese New Year!  It must've been very delicious because I could hear them devouring it and talking about all the different choices from the next room :) 
I was good and had an orange which is a more traditional Chinese dessert anyway. 

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