Chinese Mandarin Orange Chicken

mandarin-oranges

When I received this 15-pound box of organic mandarin oranges from Chaffin Family Orchards, sustainable family farm in northern California (see my resources page), I was inspired, imagining all the things I could make with them.

Orange marmalade. Duck a L'Orange. And Chinese Orange Chicken.

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Oranges are a special gift from the heavens. When we begin to feel cold and weary in November and December, we are blessed with citrus fruit — a little taste of summer — to enliven us through the winter.

“Mandarin oranges” is a term that applies to an entire group of citrus fruits. This group, botanically classified as Citrus reticulata, includes such varieties as Satsuma, Clemetine, Dancy, Honey, Pixie, and tangerines in general. Most are sweeter than their other citrus cousins (yet there are some tart varieties), have a bright orange skin that is easy to peel, and inner segments that are easily separated. There are seeded and seedless varieties.

The terms “mandarin orange” and “tangerine” are often used interchangeably, particularly outside the United States. This can be confusing, because although a tangerine is a mandarin orange, not all mandarin oranges are tangerines. Tangerines are the most common variety of fresh mandarin orange found in the US.

Mandarin refers to the bright orange robes worn by the mandarins, public officials of the ancient Chinese court. These delectable fruits were often reserved strictly for the privileged class in the Far East, another distinguishing reason why they are called mandarins or mandarin oranges today. Although cultivated for over 3,000 years in China, mandarin oranges did not reach Europe and North America until the nineteenth century. The first mandarin oranges to be exported were shipped from the city of Tangiers in Morocco, hence the moniker tangerines. (Source)

chinese-emperor

These babies I got from Chaffin Orchards are the seedless “Satsuma” variety. I was curious about the origin of the name Satsuma. Turns out it's Japanese.

In 1876 during the Meiji period, “mikan” (mandarin oranges) were brought to the United States from the Satsuma Province in Kyūshū, Japan by a spouse of a member of the U.S. Embassy… The towns of Satsuma, Alabama, Satsuma, Florida, Satsuma, Texas and Satsuma, Louisiana were named after this fruit. (Source)

We're privy to a wide selection of orange varieties grown locally here in Southern California. Everything from the pedestrian navel orange to the gourmet blood orange. And they're all good. But the flavor from this Satsuma from Chaffin Family Orchards is unique. Pungent, explosive, fantastic.

And the juice. As I was pressing some juice for the Chinese Mandarin Orange Chicken recipe, I sampled some. Wow! Once you've had this juice, you can never go back to Tropicana.

Notes on This Recipe

This recipe is different from most recipes you'll find for Chinese Orange Chicken. I used a healthy, traditional fat — lard. Unlike what you read in books like The China Study, lard, or pig fat, has traditionally been used in China for thousands of years (Source). I also used a traditional, unrefined sweetener — honey. And I used whole grain sprouted flour instead of refined white flour.

If you can't find lard, beef tallow would also be very good in this recipe. If you use coconut oil, make sure it is the flavorless, refined, expeller-pressed variety. Otherwise the taste of coconut will be too strong. Also, make sure your lard or tallow is from a good source (don't buy the partially-hydrogenated lard at the grocery store).

I think you can use any oranges for this recipe, but the more flavorful your oranges, the better this sauce will taste. Grocery store oranges lack flavor. They taste more like water than orange. I recommend using only organic oranges because you need to use the skin for zest. No matter how much you wash non-organic oranges, you can't get that yucky taste of pesticides out of orange zest.

I say 1-5 red chiles because it depends on how spicy you like your food. If you don't like anything spicy, you can use as little as 1/2 of a chile, or even omit them altogether. If you like moderately spicy, use 1 or 2. If you like spicy, use 4 or 5.

I served this chicken dish with brown rice (cooked in chicken broth, to make it more nutrient dense) and steamed baby bok choy. If you don't have access to fresh baby bok choy, you could also serve steamed broccoli or green beans — or other greens like braised kale, Brussels sprouts, or Chinese mustard greens.

Chinese Mandarin Orange Chicken

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Prep Ahead:
Dried red chiles, available at most grocery stores and at all Hispanic grocery stores (1-5) — you could also use dried chile flakes but I don't know how flavorful they are
Minced orange zest, from organic oranges (1 TBS)
Ginger root (1 to 2 inches) — where to buy ginger

Orange Sauce:
Freshly-squeezed orange juice, from organic oranges (1 cup)
Chicken broth, deally homemade, but if not, use store-bought organic free-range chicken broth (1 cup) — click for recipe
Naturally fermented soy sauce (4 TBS)
White wine (3 TBS)
Rice vinegar (1 1/2 TBS)
Honey (6 TBS) — where to buy honey
Cornstarch (1 1/2 TBS) — where to buy cornstarch

Batter:
Water (1 1/2 cup)
Sprouted flour (1 cup)
Cornstarch (1/4 cup (4 ounces)
Baking soda (2 tps)
Eggs, preferably pastured, but at the very least organic & free-range (2)

Fried Chicken
Lard, expeller pressed (refined) coconut oil, or beef tallow (1 cup)
Chicken meat from pastured chickens (3 pounds) — or at least free-range organic (cut into bite-size cubes; I used chicken thigh meat because I think it's more flavorful)
Sea salt

Equipment

[easyazon-link asin=”B00004S7V8″ locale=”us”]Microplane zester[/easyazon-link] (optional; you can also use a box cheese grater but it doesn't work quite as well)
[easyazon-link asin=”B00279OPDU” locale=”us”]Candy thermometer[/easyazon-link](optional)
Wok (optional)

[easyazon-link asin=”B00063RXQK” locale=”us”]Wok[/easyazon-link]

Directions

1. Wearing gloves, slice the dried chiles open with a sharp knife and discard the seeds. Mince and place in a small bowl of hot water. Set aside.
2. Zest the oranges and place in a small bowl. Set aside.
3. Mince the garlic and the ginger root and place together in a bowl. Set aside.
4. Juice the oranges and pour into a large bowl. Mix with the rest of the ingredients for the orange sauce. Set aside.
5. Cut up the chicken meat.
6. Mix the batter.
7. Dip the chicken pieces into the batter and set on a platter.
8. Add 1 cup of lard, refined coconut oil or beef tallow to a Dutch oven or stock pot. (If you want to speed the process, you can use 2 cups of lard and 2 pots. What takes the longest with this recipe is frying the chicken.)
9. Heat up the lard, coconut oil or tallow to about 300 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, you can just heat it until it bubbles (but don't let it smoke).
10. Carefully drop the chicken pieces into the oil. Do not crowd. Fry them a few minutes on each side, until golden brown. Transfer them onto a plate lined with paper towels and add a little sea salt.
11. In a wok, Dutch oven or large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of lard, tallow, or refined coconut oil on medium heat.
12. Add the minced garlic and ginger and stir-fry.
13. Drain the dried red chilies of water and add to the pan, stirring.
14. Stir in the minced orange zest.
15. Add the orange sauce mixture. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil, continuing to stir until the liquid reduces and the sauce thickens.
16. Incorporate the fried chicken.
17. Serve on a plate alongside brown rice and vegetables.

Find Me Online

Ann Marie Michaels

I have 25 years of experience in digital and online media & marketing. I started my career in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, working at some of the world’s top ad agencies. In 2007, after my first child was born, I started this little food blog which I grew to over 250K monthly unique website visitors and over 350K social media followers. For nearly 15 years, I've helped my audience of mostly moms and women 25-65 cook for their families and live a healthier lifestyle.

 The year after I started the blog, I founded a blog network in the health & wellness space called Village Green Network. I started the company on my coffee table and bootstrapped the business to over $1.3 million in annual revenue within 5 years. During that time, I helped a number of our bloggers become six figure earners. After being censored on almost every social media platform for telling the After being censored on almost every social media platform from Facebook and Instagram to Pinterest and Twitter, and being deplatformed on Google, I am now deployed as a digital soldier, writing almost exclusively about politics on my blog Cheeseslave.com. Because who can think about food when we are fighting the second revolutionary war and third world war? Don't worry, there will be more recipes one day. After the war is over.

32 thoughts on “Chinese Mandarin Orange Chicken

  1. Where did you get the second picture? I absolutely love when we have the Chinese festivals up here. They have the most amazing art and light shows.
    .-= The Nourished Canuck´s last blog ..’Make and Process’ Monday: MARGARINE/SPREADS VS. BUTTER =-.

  2. I’m a complete wimp and don’t use spicy peppers in my cooking – are the peppers essential to the taste or can you recommend a milder substitute (I’m assuming they’re hot since you recommend gloves for preparing them!). This sounds so delicious and I’ve already ordered my case of mandarin oranges from Chaffin because you and Kelly and Kimi have posted the most glorious pictures … I can’t wait for them to get here!!! Thanks~

  3. What a great post. I just happen to have a box myself, and the kids aren’t eating them as much as I thought they would. So… perfect! A nice adult meal.
    .-= Unplanned Cooking´s last blog ..Word Up: Make Ahead Giblet Gravy =-.

  4. Love the recipe, but I’m curious about the honey in the sauce; my understanding is that honey should never be heated as it creates toxic compounds. I’m assuming it could either be substituted with another sweetener, or maybe just added at the very end so as not to be subject to heating?

  5. I agree, Jay.

    I do try to take photos of the food as often as I can. But sometimes it’s all I can do to get dinner on the table. When the family is hungry, they don’t appreciate me futzing around with a camera. I decided I’d rather get the post up without a photo than wait until I make this again.

  6. Yay! Another healthy Chinese recipe! I love these because I avoid most Chinese restaurants like the plague (why, oh why can’t they use traditional ingredients; it would be SO good!). I actually have some oranges my folks brought over yesterday – I think I’ll attempt this one tonight. I’m salivating already. 🙂 Hooray for healthy Chinese chicken!
    .-= Elizabeth from The Nourished Life´s last blog ..Broth: A Food That Heals =-.

  7. I first heard that heating honey makes it toxic about twenty years ago, and I’ve read it many times since. A quick internet search turned this up from the Spiritual Foods for a New Millennium website…

    Heating honey destroys the beneficial properties and promotes decay of the invertase- the main bee enzyme. According to many sources, honey should never be heated above 40°С (104°F).

    According to Ayurveda, when honey is heated above 108° Fahrenheit, it becomes transformed into a glue-like substance that is extremely difficult to digest. This substance is considered a toxin (ama), since it adheres to the tissues of the body and is very difficult to remove. Many incompatible food combinations produce toxins, but heated honey is one of the most difficult forms to cleanse. Furthermore, not only does heating honey make it toxic and increase ama, but new research also indicates that most of the benefits of honey — a variety of amino acids, enzymes, minerals, fatty acids and carbohydrates — are destroyed by the application of heat. (In addition) heated honey can be mucus forming. Therefore, Ayurveda recommends raw, unprocessed honey.

    Likewise, the Really Raw Honey website only lists desserts where the honey is not baked.
    .-= Annie Dru´s last blog ..That ain’t turkey scratch kiddo! =-.

  8. We tried the recipe last night, and it was so good I had to blog about it. I am very happy to have my Chinese without the additive junk, can’t you tell? 🙂

    By the way, we used maple syrup (we’re out of honey till next week), and it turned out lovely, so it certainly doesn’t have a negative impact on taste. I never knew that about heating honey, either, although I try to keep mine unheated to preserve the nutrients, anyway.
    .-= Elizabeth from The Nourished Life´s last blog ..Anniversary Giveaway: Win a Nourishing Book! =-.

  9. This post really made me think about the part pigs have had in sustaining people throughout history.Of course in some countries pigs would be all that could be raised so naturally nothing would go to waste.No olive or coconut oil in some places!It also made me think about Sally Fallon’s comments about possible problems with pig meat,but not lard.I wonder how traditional people flourished if pork is such a problem,considering that it was probably the only meat available much of the time?

  10. I just got an email from www.localharvest.org about this family farm and their manderin oranges (the season had a “light” yield, so supplies are limited). Your recommendation nudged me. I sent a box to my folks in the Northeast. They could probably use some “California sunshine” this time of year, I’m sure.

  11. Mumm….this sounds wonderful. I made orange chicken (tried to!) a long time ago but it wasn’t as good as the local restaurant’s version. This has inspired me to give it another try!
    .-= Ashley´s last blog ..Cast Iron Fry Pans =-.

  12. I’m sorry to say that I think that the lard part sounds absolutely disgusting. Why don’t you try using healthy oils instead of filthy swine fat. Isn’t it enough that the majority of people are turning into monkeys and swine do we also have to be disgraced with the consumption of filth.
    Other then that I think that the recipe sounded good.

    1. If we’re going to go on how an animal behaves when it’s alive, you don’t want to eat beef or chicken either. You’ve never lived on, worked at or visited an actual farm, have you?

  13. made this recipe for dinner tonight…i used expeller-pressed coconut oil as my frying fat, as i dont have access to lard or tallow. very tasty, although i think next time i would double the orange sauce…2 pounds of chopped up chicken is really alot, and i want sauce to be able to soak into my rice as well!

  14. Thanks Annie Dru, just erased my comment about heating honey and ama. I am on a mission to let the traditional foods community know about the dangers of heating honey. I think most TFers know it isn’t ideal (like heating raw milk is not ideal) but the fact is it’s toxic. Thanks to the other Elizabeth at TNL for the maple sub, that’s my usual replacement for honey in cooked foods.

  15. Danielle, not everyone feels or believes pork to be filthy or that consuming it makes them filthy. Also, she gives alternative oils for this recipe. I assume you realize you are free to use coconut oil and forgo the “filthy swine” since it apparently offends you. I ask you this, how does such a harsh comment be constructive? If you don’t personally care for something then simply don’t use it.

  16. I am looking forward to trying this when I have a bit of spare time to spend in the kitchen, it sounds delicious! One question, I don’t have any cornstarch at home but I do have brown rice flour, would this work as a substitute? Very interesting with the honey btw, it’s used quite a lot in baked goods and bread recipes but presumably that’s not ideal, then? I will try to sub palm sugar paste in this recipe but i’ve heard it’s no good in bread?

  17. I’m soooooo excited about this recipe. My dad likes to get the pre-made HFCS/orange chicken but I’m going to try making him this!!

  18. Hi! Your link on where to buy sprouted flour didn’t work for me. Can you tell me the brand you prefer and I can find it?
    Thank you for this recipe, will be making it for my kids soon.

  19. This post really made me think about the part pigs have had in sustaining people throughout history.Of course in some countries pigs would be all that could be raised so naturally nothing would go to waste.No olive or coconut oil in some places!It also made me think about Sally Fallon’s comments about possible problems with pig meat,but not lard.I wonder how traditional people flourished if pork is such a problem,considering that it was probably the only meat available much of the time?
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  20. Orange chicken what is this actually i am listing this word first time in my life orange chicken i have never listen it before.

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