Orange chicken probably needs no introduction, but for those of you who have never ordered from a Chinese-American take-out menu, it’s battered and deep-fried chicken pieces coated in a sticky, sweet orange sauce. Health food, it is not. But sometimes, it’s surprisingly easy to transform a recipe from something SAD into something deliciously Primal.
This Primal Chinese Orange Chicken recipe takes what’s good about Orange Chicken (crispy morsels of chicken and a sweet, tart, spicy sauce) and leaves out what’s bad (flour, cornstarch, canola oil, sugar). The orange sauce – made mainly from freshly squeezed orange juice, coconut aminos and rice vinegar – is so good that it makes a person wonder why sugar is ever added in the first place. And the bits of chicken – tender in the middle with a substantial, battered coating – are the type of thing you’ll be popping in your mouth before they have a chance to hit your plate.
Time in the Kitchen: 1 hour
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
In a medium bowl, mix together the tapioca flour and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites and 2 teaspoons/10 ml of the coconut aminos until frothy. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl. Mix well so the chicken is well coated. Set aside.
To make the sauce, heat the sesame oil in a small pot and sauté the garlic and ginger for 1 to 2 minutes, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Add orange juice, remaining 2 tablespoons/30 ml of coconut aminos, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Bring the sauce to a gentle boil and keep on the heat until the sauce reduces and thickens into a syrupy consistency, 3-5 minutes.
Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer to separate (and discard) the bits of garlic and ginger. Stir in the orange zest. Set the sauce aside.
Use a fork or slotted spoon to scoop the chicken pieces out of the egg whites and into a clean bowl, leaving behind any of the egg white liquid that isn’t clinging to the chicken.
Transfer 1/3 of the chicken into the bowl of tapioca flour and toss to coat. Spread the coated chicken out on a large plate. Continue to add the remaining chicken to the tapioca flour in small batches until it is all coated.
In a deep, heavy pot, heat the sunflower oil. You’ll want about 2 inches/5 cm of oil for frying. The oil should be very hot and glistening (and at around 350 ºF/177 ºC). Test the oil temperature by tossing in a tiny piece of chicken; it should bubble and fry immediately.
In small batches, carefully drop pieces of chicken into the oil one-by-one so the pieces don’t stick together. Move and turn the chicken around a few times as it cooks, so it browns evenly. Fry each piece for about 3 minutes or until golden.
Remove each batch of chicken from the oil and set aside. When all the chicken is fried, drizzle the orange sauce on top. Serve alone, garnished with green onions, or on top of cauliflower rice.