Crispy orange-flavored beef (or chicken) is another staple dish from the world of picture-based Chinese takeout menus. Like General Tso’s, if the dish actually exists in China, it probably bears little resemblance to the aluminum tray filled with syrupy-sweet fried beef bits that we have grown accustomed to here in the States. It can be cloyingly, almost inedibly sweet, served by the gummy gallon with a few sprigs of soggy broccoli.
When it’s good, though? Oh, is it good. Crunchy pieces of beef, with a lightly crunchy coating, and a sauce that is flavored with orange zest, dried orange peel, or sometimes even a few chile peppers. Our version has a light amount of heat and spice, with slightly less sugar than many recipes. All of our orange flavor comes from the zest from the peel, with a squeeze of fresh juice.
We like to use inexpensive blade cuts of beef, because of their exquisite tenderness, a result of their complex marbling. It’s a cheap cut, mainly because of the thick band of sinew that runs through the middle of each steak. Just cut it out, and slice what’s left over very thin. Or, alternately, substitute some thin slices of boneless skinless chicken breast.
Crispy Orange Beef
- 1 pound top blade steaks
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- Peanut oil for frying
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 8-10 dried red chiles japoneses
- 2 cups cooked rice
- 8 broccoli florets, lightly steamed or blanched
First, prepare your blade steaks. Remove the hard, chewy bit from the center, and slice two remaining halves lengthwise into thin strips. Set aside in refrigerator while you prepare the other ingredients.
In a small bowl, combine sugar, vinegar, orange juice, salt, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce. Set aside.
Remove beef from refrigerator, and toss in cornstarch to coat evenly. Set aside.
Heat 1-2 tablespoons of peanut oil in a wok or frying pan. Working in batches, fry beef until brown and crispy, adding more oil if needed. Transfer to drain on paper towels. Repeat until all beef is cooked.
Add orange zest, ginger, garlic, and chiles to pan. Toast briefly until fragrant, then stir in vinegar/soy sauce mixture. Bring to a boil, and cook until thick and glossy, about five minutes. Add cooked beef to sauce, and toss quickly to coat.
Serve crispy orange beef over a bed of cooked white rice, with a few steamed broccoli florets.