Copycat Panda Express Sweet Fire Chicken
Mess Level: High
Yield: 6 Servings
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 45 min
For the Dish:
- 6 Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
- 1 Red Bell Pepper
- 1 Green Bell Pepper
- 1 Red Onion
- 3 Scallions
- ½ Pineapple
- 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
- 4 Eggs
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- 1 Tablespoon Paprika
- 1 teaspoon Cayenne
- Grapeseed or Canola Oil for Frying
For the Sauce:
- ½ Cup Sweet Chili Sauce
- 1-2 Tablespoons Garlic Chili Sauce
- 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
- Hot Water for Thinning
- Dice the bell peppers and pineapple into bite-sized pieces. Cut the onion into bite-sized slices, then set all vegetables and the pineapple aside. Thinly slice the green parts of the scallions and reserve for garnish.
- Whisk together the sweet chili sauce, garlic chili sauce, and soy sauce. Thin with warm water until it runs easily off a spoon, you want the consistency of warm honey. Taste and add salt if needed, then set aside.
- Trim any large pieces of fat off of the chicken then cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Set out three bowls, fill two with the flour and one with the eggs. Add a generous amount of salt and pepper to all three, and divide the cayenne and paprika equally among all of them. Whisk the two bowls of flour to incorporate the spices, taste and make sure they are seasoned. Then whisk the egg mixture.
- Begin heating your frying oil in a deep pan to about medium heat, I like to use a cast iron skillet for this. You want to aim for a frying temperature of 350 Fahrenheit. Make sure your oil is deep enough that it will come halfway up the chicken pieces. Set a platter lined with paper towels near the fryer.
- Pick one hand to be your flour hand and the other will be the egg hand. Lay out a tray with foil on it and with your flour hand dredge several pieces in the flour, then gently lower them into the egg mixture. With your egg hand, coat them in egg mixture and gently lower them to the other flour bowl. With your flour hand again, toss them until they’re coated in flour, shake them off and set them on the foil.
- Repeat until all the chicken has been breaded or if you have a buddy, they can bread the next batch while you fry.
- Test the oil with one piece of chicken. It should sizzle and float immediately and should be a light brown after 1-2 minutes. Turn the chicken with tongs once it’s a light brown and fry for 1-2 minutes more. Remove to the paper towel-lined platter and repeat until all the chicken has been fried. Set the oil carefully to the back of the stove to cool.
- In a large, cast iron skillet, heat enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan until it is almost smoking. If your skillet is small, you might need to do this in batches. Add in your vegetable and pineapple mixture and saute about 3 minutes or until they’re just beginning to soften. Add in the chicken and then lightly drizzle in some of the chili sauce mixture, just enough to coat the pieces. I used roughly ¼ of a cup and it was plenty. Toss until the mixture is warm then turn off the heat and serve immediately over lo mein or fried rice and garnish with scallions. Enjoy!
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Ramblings of a Line Cook
A small part of my heart has always yearned to live in a tiny, uncomfortable apartment in Manhattan, where I cannot afford the rent but I CAN have Chinese food delivered to my door. You know the hit sitcom Friends, that I keep rewatching and keep bringing up in my posts? The one where Rachel is accidentally ruining one of Ross’s relationship attempts again while having Chinese food delivered to their apartment in upper Manhattan. One of her finest moments.
I feel that my dream will fall flat because 1) I don’t actually want to live in Manhattan in an absurdly expensive apartment and 2) A lot of Chinese restaurants are actually no great shakes.
But there’s something magical about the inauthentic, sticky-sweet goodness that is American-Chinese food. And while breaking out the deep-fryer is usually a once-a-year occurrence for me, this chicken made the cut. Oh man is it good! Now I did ask myself, why go to all the trouble of breading and deep frying something you could get at the drive-through window? And that question was answered when I took the first bite. Heavenly!