Citizens, it is a well-known statement of fact that Hunan cuisine is one of the eight great regional cuisines of China and is well known for its hot spicy flavor, fresh aroma and deep color. When most Americans think of Hunanese cuisine, it is inevitably to orange beef that their minds turn.
Only one problem – this isn’t in fact a classic of the canon! Observant Citizens will have noted that I have not included the classic Chinese characters in the title for this recipe – and with good reason!
Although perhaps Hunan in origin, this recipe is really an example of New-York Chinese food. Much like Lemon Chicken, this is in fact a westernized recipe! First attributed to master chef T.T. Wang of Hunan Restaurant on Second Avenue in New York, it was created in 1971. Crispy orange flavored beef and crispy sea bass Hunan-style were in fact both attributed to Wang and his restaurant.
Most commonly experienced as a chicken dish in most countries in the western hemisphere, the names “orange chicken”, “orange chicken peel”, “orange flavored chicken”, and “tangerine chicken” are typically used for this particular dish.
In Chinese, however, the classic dish is always 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.
Citizens, given that this is a hybrid “West-East” dish, I have chosen to use fresh orange peel in the recipe as it was first presented in NYC in the 70’s. In further nods to the West, I have also upped the orange quotient by using a hit of Grand Marnier and have marinated the beef in vermouth, as I find its herbaceous qualities lend themselves very nicely to the balance of flavors in this dish.
Lastly, I’ve balanced out the flavors with several different Chinese vinegars and ditched the inedible whole dried chilies one typically finds. I have instead added hot chili paste and a touch of minced Thai chili.
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