When I was in high school, we didn’t really have a traditional cafeteria; instead, we used a college campus’ union where they had tons of food options inside. Between my freshman and sophomore year, Burger King was moved out and in their place came a Panda Express. I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about that, since I loved the Burger King frozen chocolate pies so much. But one taste of Panda Express’ orange chicken and it was love at first bite.
I can’t count how many times I got that order over the next couple of years. Now I sometimes go back and get a little nostalgic just looking at the Panda Express sign. But since gluten and meat are out, Panda Express’ orange chicken is, too. So that inspired me to make my own; if I could make something half as good as their orange chicken without chicken or wheat, I’d be happy. Luckily I think I came upon with something half as good and more.
I used tapioca starch for a corn-free dish I was a little worried it wouldn’t be a good replacement, but it worked exactly the same. It’s something I now keep on hand at all times for gluten-free/grain-free baking and cooking.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Ingredients(for 2 servings):
- 1 block of tempeh, cubed
- Juice of 1/2 an orange(about 2 Tablespoons)
- 2 Tablespoons agave, or any sweetener
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce(or wheat-free tamari)
- 1/2 Tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon siracha sauce(optional)
- 1/2 Tablespoon tapioca or corn starch mixed with 2 Tablespoon water
- In a small dish, mix together the orange juice, agave, soy sauce, vinegar, salt, sesame oil and siracha if using.
- Pour the mixture into a frying pan and heat over a burner set to medium.
- When the liquid is hot, add in the tempeh. Brown the tempeh on all sides in the sauce until half the liquid has boiled off, about 5 minutes.
- Pour the dissolved starch into the pan and mix it around with the tempeh and sauce to thicken up. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a couple tablespoons of hot water into the pan and mix it in until more of the starch has dissolved and adjust it until it forms a coating over the tempeh.
- Remove from the heat. Serve over vegetables or rice.
This sauce is slightly less sweet and more orange-flavored than Panda Express’, which I like in terms of complexity but not quite fitting for a Chinese take-out craving. You can play with the sweetness and saltiness by adding more sugar or soy sauce and adjust to taste.