Pssst – can I let you in on a little secret? My kids like Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken better than Panda Express’. I know, right?
Up until recently Panda Express’ Orange Chicken was always a favorite for takeout. And who doesn’t like those nuggets of breaded chicken tossed in a sweet-tangy orange sauce? It’s long been a best-seller at the popular chain’s restaurants (that seem to be on almost every street corner now, especially in Los Angeles.) Personally, I prefer their Honey Walnut Shrimp, but the Orange Chicken was always the kid – and crowd – pleaser. I recently provided dinner for fifty of my daughter’s high school classmates after a show rehearsal, and when I mentioned Chinese food the overwhelming response was, “Please get orange chicken.” Well, that and, “Don’t forget the fortune cookies.” Who knew high-schoolers were so interested in planning for the future?
But after having Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken a few times, my kids (and I) have deemed it the winner. The dish comes frozen and is ready after a 20-minute warmup in the oven. Toss it with some of the sauce provided, and you get a fresh, piping-hot version of the Panda Express dish. I think one of the reasons we prefer the TJ’s version is that you can control the amount of sauce – it comes with 2 packets but I use only one of them – and can avoid the overly sticky and heavy consistency and too-sweet taste of the chain’s version. I always toss it with a handful of thinly sliced green onion, and sesame seeds if I have them on hand. Serve it with some freshly-steamed rice, and you’ve got an entire meal for less than you would pay for takeout. Okay, you don’t get the fortune cookies, but a few rounds with a Magic-8 ball always provides the same results.
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When she isn’t looking for ways to avoid leaving the house to pick up takeout, Marsha can be found at Sweatpantsmom.com
Post and Photo: Marsha Takeda-Morrison