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The variety of orange chicken most commonly found at North American Chinese restaurants consists of chopped, battered and fried chicken pieces coated in a sweet orange-flavored chili sauce, which thickens or caramelizes to a glaze. While the dish is very popular in the United States, it is most often found as a variation of General Tso's chicken in North America rather than the dish found in mainland China. Chef Andy Kao claims to have developed the original Chinese-American orange chicken recipe at a Panda Express in Hawaii in 1987. Since Panda Express is closely associated with this dish, Panda Express uses orange chicken as a promotion tool by having a dedicated food truck tour the country distributing samples of orange chicken.
Though called Chinese food in North America, orange chicken is rarely found in Chinese restaurants in China. Andrew Cherng, owner and founder of Panda Express, said that orange chicken is just a variation of General Tso's chicken, another dish that is almost unknown in China. Journalist Jennifer 8. Lee says that both "General Tso's chicken and Orange Chicken are Americanized mutations of sweet and sour dishes found in China." Orange chicken has also entered the menus of the mainstream U.S. by being served in school cafeterias, and in military bases chow halls, and also found in the supermarket frozen meal aisle.
In Chinese, this dish is known as "橙花雞", literally "(Fresh) Orange peel chicken". The dish also has a variation known as "陳皮雞", literally "Dried Citrus peel chicken", referring to dried orange or tangerine peel, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine as well as cooking.
For restaurants outside of Asia, fresh orange peel is often used instead, or even no peel at all.
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ORANGE CHICKEN Chun Pei Gai Pan Traditionally this Hunan recipe contained what is called chun pei, or ‘old skin,’ to describe the dried citrus peel used in its preparation.
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