Cantonese Orange Ribs, plus orange chicken because why not I guess


So that takeout staple, orange sauce… who
invented it?
This’s a question that’s… nagged me
for a while.
See, for the most part, the takeout menu does
have its roots in actual Chinese dishes, though
there’s some exceptions here or there.
Fortune cookies were invented in San Fran
around the turn of the century, Crab Rangoon
traces its lineage back to the tiki craze
of the 1950s, and Panda express – yes, that
Panda express, claims to have invented orange
chicken in its Hawaii location in 1987.
But if you know where to look you can find
fried stuff smothered in orange sauce here
in the Pearl River Delta, so usually I’d
be quick to claim, “case closed, Panda express
is full of it, this stuff comes from Guangdong”.
But… not so fast.
See, if you found yourself eating around Cantonese
restaurants in Guangdong, you might be a little
surprised at how… dynamic… some of their
menus are.
These aren’t some sort of static temples
to a frozen tradition – in their menus you
can find the new… the old… the weird…
in other words, they’re restaurants.
And it’s in this kind of place that you
can, at times, find a relatively rarer and
what seems to be newer Cantonese dish… orange
ribs.
See, the earliest reliable mention we could
find in Chinese of orange sauce was in the
1990s, and in a conversation with Steph’s
Dad he said first saw orange ribs here in
the early 2000s.
So if you’ve been keeping score, Panda express’s
1987 claim… predates those, which means
it’s possible that this sauce traveled from
the USA to here, the only dish we know of
that would’ve made that journey.
Now, know that the sources are super murky
here… there’s some evidence that orange
sauce might’ve also been an earlier Hong
Kong Chachaanteng invention that made its
way to Hawaii, and it’s also possible that
this is an old Cantonese dish and we just
couldn’t find it.
What is for certain though is that orange
juice is a natural fit for a sweet and sour,
and is perfect to toss on some deep fried
meat.
So in light of all that, we wanted to show
you two different dishes today.
First, we wanted to show you Cantonese orange
ribs, like you can find here in Guangdong,
using the modern Cantonese orange sauce.
But at the same time, we decided to whip up
some orange chicken using that sauce together
with the deep-frying method employed by sweet
and sour pork because…
I dunno, why not.
So to get started with orange ribs, we’ll
need… orange juice concentrate.
I know I know, you can also use fresh orange
juice here and I’ll talk about how in the
notes in the comments, but fresh juice just
didn’t seem to have the right orange kick.
So to a bowl first toss in 30 grams of orange
juice concentrate, 75 grams of water, 15 grams
of white rice vinegar, 30 grams of granulated
sugar, a half teaspoon salt, and a half tablespoon
of instant custard.
Here we’re using a British brand of instant
custard, it’s sometimes used in these sorts
of fruity Cantonese sweet and sour sauces
for balance, and if you can’t find it just
sub with milk powder.
Give that all a mix, and set it aside.
Now for the ribs.
Here we’re using a half a kilo cut from
the center of the rib, this cut’s being
called “St Louis style spareribs” if you’re
America-based.
Now marinate those with a half teaspoon salt,
a teaspoon of sugar, an optional sprinkle
of white pepper powder, a teaspoon of liaojiu
a.k.a. Shaoxing wine, and for this kind of
deep fried coating, we’ll also be tossing
in a slurry of two tablespoons of cornstarch
mixed with a tablespoon of water.
The sort of coating we’ll be doing for these
ribs is the really light sort, which’s why
this’s marinated with the cornstarch.
So mix well, and leave that to sit for about
thirty minutes.
After that time, take your ribs and give them
a coating with dry cornstarch.
You really don’t want to go too nuts here…
just a thin layer to give the ribs a bit of
texture… something like this’ll work great.
I like tossing those on an oven rack as I
work, and these… are good to fry.
So in a wok with about three cups of oil,
get that up to about 160 centigrade and drop
in your ribs – we’re aiming to fry these
at about 150.
Then after about four or five minutes of frying,
you should be looking at an internal temperature
of about 76, so take them out.
Now heat the oil up to a blistering 200 celcius,
give the ribs a quick 15 second dip in the
hot oil, and… take them out and toss on
a paper towel lined plate.
Now back to the sauce.
In a different pot, whose seasoning you won’t
annihilate with an acidic sauce, toss in about
a tablespoon of peanut oil and about an inch
of crushed ginger.
Then over medium heat, give the ginger a quick
fry until fragrant, about thirty seconds,
then swirl in a tablespoon of liaojiu a.k.a.
Shaoxing wine.
Quick mix, remove the ginger, then go in with
the orange sauce.
Bring to a light boil, then toss in a slurry
of a half teaspoon cornstarch mixed with a
half tablespoon water… quick mix, and you
should be looking at a sauce with a pretty
syrupy consistency.
So now shut off the heat, toss in the ribs…
give them a thorough coating, and… out.
Be sure to get every last feasible drop, and
your Cantonese deep fried ribs are done.
So right.
Orange chicken.
This was kind of an interesting exercise.
What we did for the chicken was the Cantonese
method for gulurou, sweet and sour pork.
We’re using one chicken breast here, sliced
into roughly half centimeter slices, then
pressed with the knife to make sure everything’s
even… something like this should work fine.
Now obviously I’ve never seen this with
chicken before here in China, but the gulurou
coating could work with pretty much anything…
like, I’m pretty sure you could use bear
meat here and no one eating would bat an eye.
So now marinate your chicken with a quarter
teaspoon salt, a half teaspoon sugar, an optional
sprinkle of white pepper powder, and a half
teaspoon of liaojiu a.k.a. Shaoxing wine…
mix well, and leave that to marinate for about
a half an hour.
Now quick heads up that the coating here is
going to feel like comically thick.
So just crack an egg, beat well until no stray
strands of egg white remain, and add in six
tablespoons of cornstarch.
It’s going to feel like a lot, and it’ll
take a second to come together… what you’re
looking for is a batter that’s obviously
sticky.
So now once the chicken’s done marinating,
for the final coating you don’t want too
much time in between coating and deep-frying.
So add in your batter and mix well, and in
and ideal world remember to mix in a tablespoon
of cornstarch with your chicken before adding
the batter, which I stupidly forgot to do.
Then once everything’s mixed well, transfer
over to a plate of dry cornstarch.
Make sure the chicken’s in roughly one even
layer, then using a twisting motion give those
a thorough coat – it’ll all feel a bit
craggly and uneven, which’s fine, that’s
what we want.
So now get a wok of oil up to about 175 celcius,
and drop in your chicken pieces.
Give those a fry for about three minutes or
until they’re lightly golden brown and obviously
floating… then take them out, get the oil
up to a blistering 200 centigrade, give those
a fifteen second dip in the hot oil… then
transfer over to a paper towel lined plate.
Now there’s a number of differences between
the orange sauce we made here and the Panda
express orange sauce… so we’ll leave a
link in the description to the Panda express
recipe.
Notably, they include soy sauce and a touch
of chili flake… and they also claim to use
fresh orange juice which I’m not totally
convinced of.
Regardless, just drop the chicken for a quick
toss in the orange sauce, and your Frankenstein
orange chicken with modern Cantonese orange
sauce is done.
So after deep frying, you might be a little
scared looking at a wok of brown oil like
this.
But!
What you can do is just let the oil sit, and
let the cornstarch come to the bottom.
And then you strain the top part, and just
toss the oily cornstarch.
The cornstarch actually helps clarify the
oil a little bit, so that you can just keep
re-using it.
So, check out the Reddit link in the description
box for a detailed recipe… a big thank you
for everyone that’s supporting us on Patreon,
and of course, subscribe for more Chinese
cooking videos.




Comments
  1. Do you have any other channels? Curious of your unique view of living where you live, and communist China or communist China vs. Hong Kong, but I'd guess you would keep that separate from your cooking stuff or not want to comment on it.

  2. Just a note, there is a lemon version of the chicken further south from Hong Kong, since the late 80's, so I assume it's a variation. Thanks for the interesting bit of history lesson.

  3. Would REALLY like to see you tackle the shown Sweet & sour deep-fried tomato stuffed with salted egg yolk. That sounds really good!

  4. Concentrated orange juice can be made by freezing fresh juice, if your supermarket does not sell frozen concentrated juice directly.

  5. Hey guys, a few notes:

    1. Ok, so as I promised in the video… fresh orange juice. Simply swap the water and concentrate out for freshly squeezed orange juice, so ~105g in all – should be roughly the amount you get from one orange. Now, in place of granulated sugar, swap that for slab sugar (or dark brown)… partly for color because freshly squeezed orange juice’s really more ‘yellow’ than orange (plus, slab sugar tastes good). Then because orange juice’s less ‘orange-y’ than concentrate, zest your orange and toss that in the sauce as you’re waiting. This approach was tasty, and felt a bit more ‘culinary’ if that makes any sense, but the recipe from the video got us closer to what we eat at restaurants here.

    2. So right, there’s nothing overly solid we’ve found dating orange ribs to Hong Kong, simply unsourced whispers saying that it got its start there. And it’d make sense. Lemon chicken is a Hong Kong chachaanteng invention – you could imagine someone thinking “hey, let’s do that same thing, but with pork! Hmm… orange feels like a better fit for pork than lemon… after all, tangerine peel pork ribs are a thing. Ok, swap the lemon juice for orange juice, toss on some ribs, fin.”

    3. In support of that theory, Panda express’s CEO stated in an interview that Andy Kao (the creator of Orange chicken) was modifying a ‘bone-in chicken dish’ that was selling like hotcakes, only the customers said “same thing, but without the bone”. It’s plausible that the Panda Express CEO got things a little mixed up (being the business end of things and all that), and really meant a ‘bone-in pork dish’. It’s a little bit of a stretch though.

    4. Oranges – i.e. the same oranges from abroad, not Mandarin Oranges… were first grown in China in the Guangdong province. So hypothetically juice-yielding oranges have been around here for a while.

    5. On the other side of things, it could also makes sense that the Hong Kong Chachaanteng were the importers of orange sauce… with what, being Canto-Western fusion and all that. It’s possible that things went USA  Hong Kong Chachaanteng  Cantonese restaurants. But the issue with that idea is that I’ve… never seen orange ribs in Hong Kong Chachaanteng – hell, even lemon chicken doesn’t seem to be a very popular choice anymore.

    6. So right, this video’s already made and all, but if anyone has any info regarding orange ribs/orange sauce we’re all ears. Any info is valuable – e.g. “I talked to my Cantonese grandfather and he said he has no idea what the hell orange ribs are” is also useful. We’ll heart that info for visibility too.

    7. On that note, recently the thing that’s been making me pull my hair out even more than this is Hoisin sauce. We’ve found – count it – ONE recipe in an old cookbook for Hoisin sauce. There’s such a frustrating dearth of information out there – I can’t find when it started, where it was first produced, and besides that one recipe? There’s like nothing out there on how it’s made. So this’ll probably be a long road ahead, but if anyone has any leads I’m all ears. I’m particularly interested in Hoisin sauce’s prevalence in south Vietnam: given that it’s a common condiment for southern Vietnamese Pho, I’d actually be willing to bet it’s more common there than it is in Guangdong. But when did Hoisin first get added to Pho?

    8. Oh, just for clarity: for the gulurou coating, the process is marinate without cornstarch  add one tbsp cornstarch, mix  add batter of ~6 tbsp cornstarch and one egg, mix  toss on a plate of dry cornstarch (I had too much cornstarch on my plate in the vid, use about half that… it’s fine just a little bit of a waste). I forgot to do step #2 there, so added it in later for ratio-consistency purposes. Obviously, once you get the hang of it you can go by feel rather than measuring.

    9. Do takeout joints abroad use that gulurou method for chicken? I… don’t think so. They use thicker cuts of meat, so I’m guessing they use something more along the lines of the method for “Tangcu Liji” – i.e. sweet and sour tenderloin. We don’t have a video for that yet, so in the meantime feel free to refer to the always excellent ChinaSichuanFood’s recipe: https://www.chinasichuanfood.com/sweet-and-sour-pork/

    10. Lastly, a note on American-Chinese takeout. This’s direct from my notes from the Lemon chicken video, but I wanted to repeat it here. There seems to be a lot of hostility to takeout Chinese out there in food circles. In a lot of ways, I get it. I can imagine if you were Chinese American and grew up in a culture that had a totally twisted perspective of your cuisine, that'd feel irksome at best and terrible at worst. Hell, often even I (Chris) feel perturbed by the misconceptions out there. It's a proud, deep, and unfathomably diverse cuisine… and the takeout menu is incredibly reductive. But the majority of that menu still has it's roots in actual Chinese dishes and techniques, it's just an odd selection adapted to the Western palette. The inverse of this also exists in China, in the form of Hong Kong chachaanteng fare, which's it's own Canto-Western thing. You can find dishes liked baked seafood rice, deep-fried french toast, well-done black pepper steak, and so forth. Is it the most complex stuff ever? Nah. Is it sometimes exactly what I want? Absolutely. Same goes for takeout stuff. To me, I think the message shouldn't be "what you love it bad" but rather "you know that stuff you love? It gets WAY better".

  6. OMG! I first had orange chicken in a restaurant in Bloomington, Indiana when I was a college student. It was amazing and not at all like what we get in the States now. Very crispy chicken deep fried chicken with a sweetish orange sauce with bits of orange peel.

  7. I remember orange flavor beef in 1986 in a basic-ass Chinese takeout in Jersey City NJ. Panda Express is, in a word, trippin.

  8. American Orange Chicken probably isn't Cantonese in origin but Sichuanese. Traditional Sichuanese Tangerine Peel Chicken (陈皮鸡) seems to be the the originator here, but with orange juice substituted for the peel. I don't know if Panda Express "invented" the US version but it's definitely more of a "modification" than invention.

    I also seen some mention on the Chinese web of "orange peel chicken" being a local dish in Nanfeng, Jiangxi – an area famous for Mandarin groves. So there are definitely a few "native" Chinese varieties out there.

    The orange ribs sauce you use though seems to be a different creature altogheter. Seems much more Cantonese. Could be a "Cantonized" version of an Americanized Sichuanese dish. I dunno.

  9. Haven't been by in awhile but the chuckle the title gave me drew me in. You guys are still rocking it. Good job.

  10. I used to get tangerine chicken at a San Jose Taiwanese restaurant back as far as the late 70’s. Always assumed Panda Express’ was a cheap imitation (as oranges cheaper than good tangerines…)

  11. Panda Express version is they use orange juice, Contrieau and some orange zest, soy sauce, ginger and some Chinese wine. By the way, that is a great history how orange sauce came from. I guess the Chinese made use of lemons for the lemon sauce before the orange sauce was popular in 2000s. Thanks for sharing!

  12. (Long-term) video request: cooking techniques / hacks that you use – you've probably accumulated a lot more experience than most of us. (Just make notes whenever you notice something useful – like the bit about the starchy oil – and eventually that'll be enough to fill a video or two.)

    Why video instead of text? Tons of execution details – "just let the oil sit, strain the top part and discard the bottom part" vs. seeing how you're moving / holding the wok, what container you strain into / what tools you use, etc. etc.

  13. Hi Steph and Chris! Hope you're well. And the lesson on the origin of the orange sauce is pretty much why we're here. To learn. And try in our kitchens, so no worries about the lesson. It's great to have background. Thanks.
    Now~
    Another winner! I'll be trying this. But not w bear meat, lol.
    One question.
    Is that orange concentrate the same as frozen concentrated OJ? I'd just thaw it, but I haven't bought it in years, so can't remember what it looks like thawed. Or would using OJ I concentrate myself with zest work? I have about 8 oranges that I haven't gotten around to using yet, so I could juice them and slowly evaporate til concentrated. Yes? No?
    Teach me Obi-wan! 💖
    Jenn 🇨🇦

  14. I find it funny how today i made orange chicken, though my recipe is much sweeter since i use equal parts fresh orange juice to dark brown sugar. Also i finely grate ginger and garlic into it with some salt and potato starch and a nice amount of red pepper flakes. So mine is a nice sweet and spicy sauce, since for me atleast i think orange is a flavor that pairs well with spicy.

  15. Is there any traditional dish that I can have on a diet? No oil pool, no deep fried stuff?

    Looks awesome but too caloric for me again

  16. The stir fried buffalo milk looks amazing! Opinions on that one since I see the sweet and sour egg stuffed tomato didn’t sit well with you?

  17. Rarely do foods or any aspect of culture appear out of nowhere. I would suppose that the panda express chef had heard of some similar sauce and changed it slightly and it got really popular.

  18. Hey super awesome cooking channel, I have a quick question. I know how vinegar is made and that it adds a good amount of acidity to any dish. I see many many stir-fry recipes and other dishes that seem to interchange rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar and I cannot find any logical pattern between the use of one or the other in a dish. What are your thoughts on the choice of using rice vinegar over rice wine vinegar and vice-versa considering they offer completely different flavor profiles?

  19. The birth of Orange Chicken=Someone was trying to make sweet and sour chicken and mistakenly or on purpose or out of necessity substituted OJ for Ketchup.

  20. Absolutely Amazing, I enjoyed it a lot!, See this New Album 'Monish Jasbird – Death Blow', channel link www.youtube.com/channel/UCv_x5rlxirO-WKjLIyk6okQ?sub_confirmation=1 , you may like it 🙂

  21. Loved the background info and the playful tone of this video! And of course the recipe looks delish as always! 🙂

  22. Hi there. I love your recipes!!! However, I live in Brazil, and Shaoxing wine isn't easy to come by at all… And I've noticed that a lot of your recipes take it… What can I use (something that's easier to find anywhere) in place of it? Tks a lot!!!!!

  23. 1984 was my first grade year of school. One of the few things that comes from that era as a reminder of where I was and when I was My favorite food was a chicken called Hawaiian chicken At the local 金龙餐厅. That was an Edmond Oklahoma USA just outside of Oklahoma City. It wouldn't be until the mid '90s that I saw it at other places as I became more interested in Chinese culture. 99 to 2001 I lived in 吉林省 always looking for the Hawaiian chicken. The only thing that I ever found that was similar was actually at a KFC called 凤梨鸡 And it was served over a bed of rice up north. I completely agree with your assertion that it probably has some sort of root in Cantonese cooking but you never know. This spreading of delicious food is super quick to be adopted by pretty much anyone. The story of ketchup basically being a fish sauce that they added tomatoes to comes to mind. Love the videos I'm getting so much better at being in the kitchen just watching and following the prep you guys do. Keep up the great work

  24. There was a beef dish commonly served at Canadian Cantonese Chinese restaurants in the late 70s, before the invention of Ginger Beef with a sauce made from concentrated frozen orange juice. The same sauce was often served with old style egg rolls as "duck sauce". When orange chicken appeared it didn't seem all that unique.

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