Zesty Orange Chicken

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Oranges taste great on their own; I hardly know anyone who doesn’t like them. They are a mind-blowing combination with chocolate, second only to mint, and are used extensively in desserts. But never in a million years had I expected to fall head-over-heals in love with oranges in an entrée. I’ve been obsessed with Orange Chicken ever since I tried it some four odd years ago at a Chinese Restaurant.

Like all recipes I’m obsessed with, I tried recreating this sweet and sour concoction with a hint (subjective) of spice last weekend. After some experimentation, I got the flavor profile I was looking for; in retrospect, I should have left out a few ingredients that gave the dish some outlandish undertones, a clashing after-taste, if you may. The recipe below doesn’t include those ingredients so you should be able to enjoy a mouth-watering Orange Chicken. I strongly recommend serving this gravy with Chinese Fried Rice (leave me a comment if you want me to post a recipe).

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Ingredients:

  • ½ kg chicken (cut into one-inch cubes)
  • ½ cup + ½ cup fresh orange juice (I used navel oranges)
  • ½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh orange zest
  • 5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1” cube of ginger (finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp chili sauce
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • I tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp white pepper powder
  • ½ tsp chili flakes (optional)
  • ½ tsp black pepper powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp chicken powder
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • 5-7 dried red chilies (optional – I used African bird’s eye chili)
  • 1 tbsp peanuts (salted and roasted)
  • 2-3 spring onion stalks (one-inch pieces)
  • ½ green bell pepper (medium sized – cut into cubes)
  • 1 onion (medium sized – cut into cubes)
  • ¼ tsp MSG (a.k.a. ajino moto)
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2 tsp honey (optional)

Method:

  1. Mix chicken, black pepper and corn flour and set it aside
  2. Heat sesame oil in a pan and add in garlic and ginger
  3. After a minute or so, add chicken to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes
  4. Mix in chili flakes, onion powder, garlic powder, MSG, and white pepper and let it sit for a minute
  5. Add in ½ cup orange juice and lemon juice and let it cook for 2 minutes
  6. Add soy sauce, chili sauce and vinegar to the chicken and cook on high flame
  7. Once the sauces have dried out a bit, add in peanuts, dried chilies and the remaining ½ cup orange juice to it
  8. When the juice evaporates again, add in Worcestershire sauce, chicken powder, green peppers, onions and the spring onion
  9. At this point, taste the chicken and see if you need salt (as the sauces used are already salty) or honey (if you feel the chicken is a bit on the sour side – mainly because of the oranges used)
  10. Give the chicken a good mix and turn off the flame
  11. Take out in a serving bowl and garnish with some fresh orange zest

Serve without waiting another second – make sure you have the Fried Rice ready beforehand. Any comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Enjoy!

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Chow Down Some Chicken Chow Mein

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We all love Chinese food and more often than not, rely on restaurants to satisfy our cravings. If I talk about myself, my Chinese experience is never complete without a serving of Chicken Chow Mein; it’s a no-brainer that this is one of the first things I order. This is also one of those things that most restaurants don’t get right.

My wife makes a mean Chow Mein which is universally loved by everyone in our family. If you talk about authenticity, this is a Pakistan-ized version similar to what’s served in restaurants across the country. I often hear people complaining why they are unable to prepare restaurant-style Chow Mein at home; well, here’s her secret. She cooks everything separately and assembles the Chow Mein towards the end; this not only keeps everything from turning into mush, but also gives a distinct flavour profile in every bite.

On those lazy nights when you don’t feel like going out or ordering in, what more could you want than a plate of piping hot stir-fried noodles? So here’s how you can prepare some in the confines of your own kitchen.

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Prep Time: 35 mins

Serves: 3-4 people

Ingredients

  • 300 grams egg noodles (or rice noodles, depending on your preference)
  • 150 grams boneless chicken (cut into 1 cm thin strips)
  • 2 medium-sized carrots (thin 1-inch julienne cut)
  • ½ green bell pepper (julienne cut – if red and yellow bell peppers aren’t available, use 1 green bell pepper)
  • ¼ red bell pepper (julienne cut)
  • ¼ yellow bell pepper (julienne cut)
  • 125 gm cabbage (thinly sliced)
  • 2 spring onions (one inch pieces)
  • 1 medium onion (thickly sliced)
  • 6-7 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 4 tablespoon sesame oil (use vegetable oil if sesame is not available)
  • 6 tablespoon soy sauce with honey-like consistency (if using the watery version, double the quantity)
  • 6-8 tablespoon chili sauce (to taste)
  • 2+1 teaspoon salt (2 teaspoon salt required while boiling noodles)
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon chinese salt (Ajino Moto or MSG – optional)
  • A pinch of sesame seeds (for garnish)

Method

  1. Set aside all ingredients before starting to work on this recipe
  2. Boil noodles as per the instructions on the box; add two teaspoon salt during the process
  3. Drain the water and let the noodles cool
  4. In a wok, stir fry all the bell peppers in ½ teaspoon sesame oil for two minutes; take it out in a bowl once done
  5. Next, stir fry the cabbage in ½ teaspoon sesame oil for two minutes; set it aside once done
  6. Stir fry the thickly sliced onion in ½ teaspoon sesame oil for two minutes; set it aside once done
  7. Stir fry the carrots in ½ teaspoon sesame oil for two minutes; set it aside once done
  8. In a sauce pan, add all the remaining sesame oil along with soy sauce, chili sauce, black pepper, chinese salt, salt, chili flakes, and half of the garlic; cook for 3 minutes till the consistency is thick
  9. Once all vegetables have been separately stir-fried, add half of the remaining sesame oil and the garlic in a wok
  10. After a minute, add the chicken and cook for 4-5 mins (or till the chicken is tender) with the lid on
  11. Add in the noodles to the chicken and stir-fry for 2 minutes
  12. Add in the stir fried vegetables one by one and mix well
  13. Add the sauce to the noodles and cook for 2 minutes
  14. Finally, add in the spring onions and turn the heat off
  15. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve immediately!

Ciao (or should I say, Chow?)!

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The Singaporean Rice Saga

Karachi wedding receptions are very different from those in any other region of Pakistan, as even though the bride and groom are (supposed to be) the main attraction, it’s the food that takes the limelight. A menu can either make or break a wedding, and you’d be darned if you selected something the guests end up hating; and don’t even get me started on the menu-bashing uncles and aunties who’ll torture you for weeks (and even months) to come!

Keeping in view the Karachiite’s mindsets, caterers try adding new and exciting dishes to their portfolios, giving the gossip-mongers something positive to talk about. ‘Fish with lemon sauce’ and ‘Chimichangas’ are two such recent inductions, but what really took the wedding world by storm a few years back was the in(ter)vention of Singaporean Rice (a.k.a. SR). Till today, seven out of ten weddings you go to will have this dish.

Since this dish is not available in mainstream restaurants, you either have to wait for the next SR wedding or make a batch at home; and then you turn to Google! Ever wondered why your Google search for a top-notch Singaporean Rice recipe always returns results from Pakistan? It’s because technically, there is not such thing as Singaporean Rice, at least not in Singapore! However during the course of my research, I did stumble upon a recipe for Hainanese Chicken Rice, a popular Singaporean staple dish that is miles apart, in taste as well as in presentation, from what we are led to believe is ‘Singaporean’ Rice.

Our caterers know that associating the word ‘Singaporean’ with a dish gives it an exotic, oriental twist, no matter how mundane it really may be. But origins aside, this is one mean rice platter, with each aromatic and creamy spoonful resulting in a taste blast, a wave of pure unadulterated pleasure, leaving your heart wanting more even if your stomach’s had had enough. Being an SR connoisseur, you have to take my word for it; this recipe that I’m about to share with you is perhaps the best SR recipe around and I’m sure you’ll believe me once you give it a try.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg rice
  • 1 bowl macaroni
  • 4-5 boneless chicken breasts (cut in ¾ inch cubes)
  • 1 tbsp ginger/garlic paste
  • 6 tomatoes (ripe and medium-sized)
  • 3 carrots (medium-sized)
  • 3 capsicums (large)
  • 14 kg cabbage
  • 7 stalks of spring onion
  • 20 cloves of garlic (thinly sliced)
  • 3 onions (medium-sized and chopped)
  • 3-4 green chilies (thinly sliced vertically – remove seeds)
  • 8 tbsp chili sauce
  • 10 tbsp soy sauce
  • 8 tbsp chili garlic sauce (only Knorr works best)
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 8 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp Chinese salt (msg/ajinomoto)
  • 1 tbsp red chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ground red chilies
  • salt to taste
  • cooking oil (for frying and cooking)

Method

  • Fry thinly sliced garlic in oil on medium flame till golden; set aside on a plate with a tissue to absorb excess oil
  • Fry sliced green chilies in oil till they have a nice and crispy coat; keep it with the fried garlic – let’s call this component A
  • Put 4 tbsp oil in a pan and fry the chopped onions till it becomes translucent
  • Add cubed tomatoes to the onions, along with the ginger/garlic paste
  • Add in 3/4 of the soy sauce, the chili sauce, 2 tbsp chili garlic sauce, red chili powder, ground red chilies, Worcestershire sauce, Chinese salt, and some salt to the mixture
  • Cook this mixture until oil surfaces
  • Add all the chicken to this mix and cook till the chicken is tender
  • Add in diced carrots, capsicum, cabbage, and spring onions and cook till the vegetables are slightly tender; this is now ready – this, we’ll call component B
  • Boil the rice and strain it
  • Put 3 tbsp oil in a utensil and add the boiled rice to it
  • Add the black pepper and some salt, the remaining soy sauce and a dash of Chinese salt to the rice, and mix well; take it off the stove once ready – we’ll call this C
  • Boil macaroni and set it aside in a bowl – let’s call this D
  • In a separate bowl, add the remaining chili garlic sauce to the mayonnaise – we’ll call it E
  • Once you have all the components from A to E ready, take a deep serving dish and add a layer of the rice (component C) at the base
  • Cover this rice layer with the gravy (component B)
  • Add a generous amount of macaroni on top of the gravy (component D)
  • The mayo-sauce comes next (component E)
  • To finally bring the dish together, sprinkle some crispy garlic flakes and some fried green chilies on top of the sauce (component A)

Your Singaporean rice is ready to serve! As always, I hope you try this dish at home and enjoy it thoroughly. Also, it does have a slightly high chili content so you may adjust the spices according to your taste.

Ciao!