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TRADER JOE’S | Mandarin Orange Chicken

Tender, battered Chicken with Mandarin Orange Ginger sauce

by RRR
How to make Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange Chicken Recipe

The first Trader Joe’s grocery store opened in 1967 in Pasadena, California and was founded by Joe Coulombe.   TJ’s, as it is popularly referred to by its rabid fan base, adopts a wholly different approach to grocery store shopping.  You won’t find Kraft Mac & Cheese or Heinz Ketchup on its shelves.   Instead, you’ll discover a store full of unique and interesting products, along with everyday basics, in the Trader Joe’s label.  Corporate TJ’s claims that their buyers “travel the world searching for products we think are exceptional and will find a following among our customers”.

So this suggests that their products are proprietary and can’t be found on any other store shelf.  Genius, really.  Create product lines that your costumers love (and crave) and will move Heaven and Earth to buy.  That Joe was one smart guy.


If you’ve ever been to a Trader Joe’s, you understand the Heaven and Earth reference.  Just maneuvering through the parking lot can make you feel like Maximus Meridius entering the Colosseum, fighting off gladiators in chariots.  And that’s before you even get into the store!  I swear, every time I enter my local Sarasota TJ’s, I feel like a hurricane must be on the way.  Crowds of loyal (and sometimes snippy) shoppers zooming around with their overflowing red carts, throwing bags of frozen and boxed goodies into it like they know something I don’t.

The grocery chain is so committed to their proprietary product labels, that they even name their Asian-inspired line “Trader Ming’s”.  Their Mexican-inspired products are named “Trader Jose”.  And the Japanese-inspired line is named “Trader Joe San”.  This is a little On the Chin, if you ask me and TJ’s has come under criticism for it.

But I digress.

Their most popular frozen food item, by a landslide, is the Mandarin Orange Chicken.  It’s crispy, battered dark meat chicken in a mandarin orange, ginger and soy glaze.  And while I’ll admit it is pretty tasty, I am not one for frozen, microwavable foods.  So I decided to create a homemade version of it.  And here we are!

The taste difference between this recipe and the frozen version is in another atmosphere.  No comparison!  Of course, it takes more time than ripping open a bag and sticking it in a microwave.  But if you are here reading this, then microwavable food is not your thing.  I know it’s not mine.  So, enjoy my dear friends.

For more delicious Asian-inspired recipes, try P.F. Chang’s Mongolian Beef and Panda Express’ Chow Mein.

How to make Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange Chicken Recipe

Trader Joe's Crispy Chicken with Mandarin Orange & Ginger Sauce

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Serves: 4 Prep Time: Cooking Time:
Nutrition facts: 320 calories 16 grams fat
Rating: 5.0/5
( 1 voted )

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs. chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1” chunks
  • Canola or peanut oil for frying
  • Slivered scallions and 1 mandarin orange, for garnish
  • Mandarin Orange Glaze:
  • ½ cup premium soy sauce
  • 3 mandarin oranges, zested and juiced
  • 1 TBL black vinegar
  • 1 TBL rice wine or sake
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ tsp. onion powder
  • ¼ tsp. white pepper
  • 1 TBL sesame oil
  • ½ tsp. fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 medium-sized garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 TBL cornstarch
  • Chicken Batter:
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2 eggs, whites only
  • 1 tsp. each: garlic powder, onion powder, ground ginger, white pepper, kosher salt
  • 4-5 cranks of cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup cold water

Instructions

Combine all batter ingredients, except water, in a very large mixing bowl.  Slowly add the cold water while whisking batter ingredients briskly.  You want the batter to be thicker than pancake batter, so add water carefully.  Once the batter is smooth, add the diced chicken, juices included, into the batter and mix thoroughly with your hands.  Set aside.

In a very tight-fitting, lidded container, add all orange glaze ingredients.  Lid the container and shake vigorously until all the cornstarch is dissolved.  Pour the mixture into a small saucepan, on a med-high heat and simmer until reduced by 1/3, stirring continuously so that the sugars don’t burn.

In a large skillet or wok, heat 3 inches of canola or peanut oil to 350 degrees F.  Once the oil comes to temperature. Drop small portions of the battered chicken into the frying oil.  Work in batches, don’t overcrowd the oil.  Once the chicken becomes very crispy and a deep, golden-brown color (about 4 minutes), remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and place on a rack to drain.  Repeat the process until all the chicken is fried.

Very carefully, discard the fry oil into a glass or metal container (not plastic) and discard.  Add the Mandarin Orange glaze into the wok and bring back up to temperature over a medium-high heat.  Add the fried chicken and toss to coat in the glaze, completely.

Garnish with slivered scallion and squeeze mandarin juice over the chicken, before serving.

For more delicious Asian-inspired recipes, try P.F. Chang's Mongolian Beef and Panda Express' Chow Mein.

 

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