Though called Chinese food in North America, ‘orange chicken’ is rarely found in Chinese restaurants in China. It seems its more an Americanized mutation of the sweet & sour dishes found in China.
Chef, Andy Kao is credited with inventing orange chicken in 1987. Inspired by flavors from the Hunan Province of China, he developed the dish while he was employed as Panda Express’ executive chef in Hawaii.
I, personally, have never enjoyed eating anything that is coated in a heavy batter. Tempura is different from other fried fare due to its distinctive batter. It uses no bread crumbs and less grease than other frying methods. The light batter is made of cold water (sometimes sparkling water is used to keep the batter light) and soft wheat flour. Eggs, baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, oil and/or spices may also be added.
Tempura batter is traditionally mixed in small batches for only a few seconds. Leaving lumps in the mixture along with the cold batter temperature, result in a unique fluffy and crisp structure when cooked. Over mixing tempura batter will result in activation of the wheat gluten, which causes the flour mixture to become soft and dough-like when fried.
The orange chicken I’m making today uses a nice light tempura batter, is grilled instead of deep fried, then coated with a unique and quick orange sauce (from kraftcanada.com). Add some Jasmine rice and veggies — perfect!