I still remember the first time I ever ate Chinese food. I was a junior in college, working at an ice cream shop. We also sold soups and sandwiches, which as workers, we also got to eat every day. But anyone who has worked in foods KNOWS how sick at tired you get of your own food.
One day our manager decided to try a food swap. Basically, one food place calls up another food place and asks if they want to trade meals. The Chinese place got 5 1/2 gallons of amazing ice cream, and we got 5 lunch specials.
It was DEVINE! I couldn’t believe something could taste that good. Despite the name, Tiny Spicy Chicken was not spicy at all. It was just pure bliss.
Hubby, on the other hand, ate Chinese food about every other week growing up. He’s a real connoisseur of the stuff. Every rainy day he turns big puppy dog eyes on me, pleading for some egg drop soup.
So I’ve been on a quest to actually make really good Chinese food at home.
Of course, Pintrest was my friend for this!
Contestant Number 1:
I only put the source there to credit it. DO NOT GO AND TRY TO MAKE THIS ONE!!!
This was my first attempt. Mostly because I already had all the ingredients, and I’m a huge fan of recipes that require little more than dumping things in a crock pot.
But this is what it ended up looking like:
Not exactly appetizing is it!
It was more like soup. And the flavor! Ugg! It had the most unbelievably bitter, almost metallic aftertaste. I tired HARD to salvage this. LOTS more sugar. Tons of cornstarch to thicken it up. Salt (to cut the bitterness). While there was some improvement, I still will never make this again.
*but it did photograph rather pretty!
Contestant Number 2:
I was very hesitant to try another crock pot version. But I was pleasantly surprised at the results. While nothing like what you can get at a restaurant, it was actually edible – enjoyably so. There was a little bit of fuss with the frying of the chicken first, but still, worth my time.
I forgot to get a shot of this one looking all pretty. But let me tell you, I was super excited it didn’t look like soup!
However, it still wasn’t that AWESOME orange chicken flavor that I was craving.
Contestant Number 3:
I saved this one for the last. It was MUCH more involved, and I was pretty sure it would end up being the best of the bunch.
Oh BOY was I right! THIS is the recipe I wanted. This is the chicken I crave on rainy days. This one, THIS ONE is making it into my permanent collection.
The whole family thought it was perfect. (ok, so Buddy didn’t really like the sauce. But he did love the fact that I let him dip the plain chicken in ketchup!) In fact, I had to scrape together the very last bit in order to take a picture of the thing!
So, if you’d like a FABULOUS homemade orange chicken recipe, don’t waste your time with #1 or #2. Just head strait for #3!
*I guess I should mention the changes I made. I’m a total cheapskate, so I didn’t buy everything I needed. I used just white vinegar, left out the orange zest and pepper flakes completely, used ground ginger instead of fresh. And I was somehow completely out of soy sauce (and yes, I did spend a very long time wandering around saying “SOOOOOOY SAAAAAUUUUCCCEEEEE!” from Thoroughly Modern Millie), so I ended up substituting teriyaki sauce instead. It was awesome!