Spicy Tangerine Chicken with Black Rice is an authentic recipe with fabulous flavor, and the black rice makes it extra special!
Black rice, aka forbidden or purple rice, is an heirloom variety that has more fiber and nutrition than regular white rice. The color is gorgeous; it starts out jet black and cooks up purplish…another example of the color = nutrition equation. The texture is firm and the flavor is nutty. Whole Foods type stores carry it, and some regular supermarkets are getting better about stocking unusual varieties these days. The brand I bought is Lotus Foods, an interesting specialty rice company dedicated to reviving exotic species of rice and promoting small sustainable farms in remote parts of the world. Their amazing rices come in all shapes and sizes, and jewel tones. If you can’t find it you can buy through their website.
I like the spicy/sweet dynamic in this dish so I used dried hot peppers, seeds and all. You can leave out the hot pepper and make the dish all sweet, especially if you’re cooking for kids. My two daughters are huge fans of the big restaurant chain orange chicken, and I know they would love this.
The rind is critical to the citrus flavor, so don’t skimp. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the rind from the tangerine (or orange) and then slice it into fine julienne. You can also use a citrus zester to create very fine ribbons of zest. You don’t want any of the white pith, which is bitter, just the colored part. If you’re not much of a citrus rind lover, just mince it, that way you won’t bite into any big chunks. Your nose will tell you you’re on the right track as you throw the rind into the hot pan with the chili and ginger…
This recipe is the result of a good bit of research into Tangerine Chicken. If you watch The Big Bang Theory, you know that there is an important difference between Tangerine Chicken and Orange Chicken ;) Tangerine is a little less sweet, a little more complex, and has a hint of bitterness, but you can use either. After checking out a bunch of versions, I settled on bits and pieces from different sources to get exactly what I was looking for. I wanted the chicken to be fried in a light batter like the kind you get in restaurants, but I didn’t want the coating to be heavy. I found the perfect batter here and it turned out just the way I wanted it to: lightly puffed and golden brown, perfect for grabbing on to the tangerine sauce.
The chicken pieces get dunked in a simple mix of egg with a tiny bit of flour and cornstarch, and then flash fried in peanut oil. It keeps the chicken moist and tender while the outside has a little crunch.
The chicken takes on another texture altogether after it slides into the thick sauce, and results in the classic tangerine chicken we all know and love.
Everything in this recipe is available in the regular supermarket, with the possible exception of the black rice.
- 1 cup black rice, cooked according to package directions
- 3/4 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, or chicken tenders, cut in bite sized chunks
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 Tbsp flour
- Pinch of salt
- Peanut oil for frying the chicken
- 2 tsp peanut oil
- 4 or 5 dried hot chilies, seeds and all, finely sliced
- 1 heaping Tbsp fresh grated ginger
- The peel from 1 tangerine (or 1 orange) finely sliced (use a vegetable peeler to remove just the peel, no bitter white pith)
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp Hoisin sauce
- 1-2 tsp chili paste
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 cup fresh tangerine or orange juice
- 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 3 Tbsp water
- 5 or 6 scallions, finely sliced
- Sesame seeds for garnish
- Sesame oil
- First make the chicken. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg and add the flour, cornstarch and salt. Add the chicken pieces right into the bowl and stir to coat.
- In a deep frying pan or wok, heat about 1/2 inch of peanut oil till quite hot, about 340F.
- Fry the chicken pieces, in batches, for about 3 minutes total, flipping halfway through till they are golden and cooked through. Don't crowd the pan, and keep the pieces separate as they cook. Drain on a paper towel and set aside.
- In a new or cleaned pan, heat 2 Tbsp of peanut oil and stir-fry the chilies for about a minute or two. Add the grated ginger and the orange peel and cook for another minute.
- Add in the onion and green pepper and stir fry for about 5 minutes.
- In a small bowl or measuring cup mix the sauce: add the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chili paste, vinegar, sugar, honey and tangerine juice. Add this to the pan and stir to combine and heat till it's boiling. Let it cook for about a minute.
- Add a little of the cornstarch mix to the pan, just enough to thicken the sauce slightly, you won't need all of it.
- Add in the chicken, and stir gently to combine everything. Taste to see what you might need to add, maybe a little salt, maybe more vinegar. I sometimes add a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Serve hot over rice. Garnish with sliced scallions and drizzle each serving with the sesame oil. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.