When the Chinese creator of an iconic Chinese-American dish passed away last month, his chicken—General Tso’s—was on the end of everyone’s chopsticks. If we didn’t know it yet, we learned that the dish’s journey from a Chinese-style stir-fry with tangy sauce to a bowl of chicken nuggets doused in spicy sauce was emblematic of the way that Chinese food became Americanized.
General Tso's chicken inspired countless tributes, and even feature-length documentaries, but Peng Chang-keui's invention isn't the only take-out staple to have a cult following. Cue the General’s close brethren, Orange Chicken, which is just as sweet and sour and crunchy and saucy. To find out more about this celebrated dish, we went to the source: Panda Express.
“The recipe was created by Panda Express Executive Chef Andy Kao in 1987, and has since been a fan favorite,” explains current Panda Express chef, Jimmy Wang. “Sweet and crispy with a touch of heat, the combination of flavors struck a chord with people in a way that few dishes do.”
Kao's popular dish in the States tapped into a proven formula: “It’s quintessentially American Chinese because it combines crispy boneless chicken that Americans love with a sweet, tangy and slightly spicy flavor profile that has existed for thousands of years in Chinese cuisine,” he says.
To taste that bit of history, we spoke with Panda Express chef Jimmy Wang to help us fine-tune the ultimate recipe for their Orange Chicken.