Weeknight Cooking: Sweet & Sour Tangerine Chicken Stir Fry

As a rule, I stay away from any dish that requires a marinade. Having to sit around while my meat is soaking up flavor is probably something I should be patient enough for, but I’m not. Marinades add additional waiting time and, when I get home from work, I’m hungry now.

But, as they say, rules are made to be broken.

Every weekend I go through my magazines and websites, building a weekly dinner menu. When I came across this one in an old Bon Appetit, I was a little put off by the marinade, but decided to go for it anyway. I’m glad I did. The chicken marinates for 30 minutes, but you aren’t sitting around. In that time, you are getting your rice together, making the sauce, and preparing the vegetables — you won’t be able to do any of that once you start cooking the chicken, because the whole dish takes less than 10 minutes to cook once it’s in your frying pan or wok. Overall, I guess I would say this took about 35 – 40 minutes of active time, and 10 minutes of cook time. This goes over the usual amount of active time I like to take for a weeknight dinner, but I decided it was worth it because the hardest part is slicing up a couple of veggies.

The website comments regarding this recipe were mostly the same: The tangerine flavor is overwhelming! The recipe only calls for 1/2 cup of tangerine juice, and it really doesn’t sound like a lot, but I didn’t want to ignore all of the comments either. I tackled the problem by doing two things.

First, I used half fresh tangerine juice, half orange juice (not from concentrate). The end result was a nice, subtle citrus flavor that contrasted with the soy used in the marinade. I think I could even have gone with 3/8 cup of tangerine juice and 1/8 orange juice without taking it over the top, but I’m definitely happy with the results I got by going half and half.

Second, I chose a sweet type of tangerine, the Clementine, also known as the Algerine tangerine. It is usually seedless and has a delicate flavor, whereas I gather the Honey and Clancy tangerines are just very, very sweet. Another tangerine that would really change the flavor of the dish is the Tangelo, which tastes like a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit. I’m not a big grapefruit fan, so I stuck with darling Clementine.

The recipe says this is 4 servings, but considering our web admin and I polished off the whole thing (and he ate whatever I left in my bowl), I’m going to call this a 2 serving dish.

Sweet & Sour Tangerine Chicken Stir Fry
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons cream Sherry or your run-of-the-mill cooking Sherry
1 tablespoon grated tangerine peel

1/4 cup fresh tangerine juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (not from concentrate)
2 tablespoons vinegar or rice vinegar
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Stir Fry
2 tablespoons peanut oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced, peeled fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 red bell pepper, cut into matchstick-size strips
15 snow peas, trimmed
1 green onion, chopped

This seems like a pretty intimidating list, but it’s deceiving. Before we get into the details, let me first humiliate myself publicly and state, for the record, that when it comes to fresh ginger and garlic, I use… oh God, the humiliation… jarred.

There. I said it.

The ginger I use is actually a ginger mixture that comes pre-mashed in a little tube. It’s expensive, but worth it. Sometimes I use fresh garlic, it depends on the recipe, but I do keep a jar of minced garlic in the fridge because I don’t like the smell of garlic that gets on my fingers and won’t come off for three days. Chefs around the world insist on using fresh ingredients, and I have read that jarred garlic has a slightly acidic taste in comparison to fresh, but my palette doesn’t know the difference right now. One day it will and, on that day, I will come back here and shun all jarred garlic users with complete and utter snobbery. Until then, I will confess that I cut corners with jarred, minced garlic and a squeeze tube of minced ginger. It’s also much faster to reach for a jar or tube than to have to peel a hunk of something and mince it up.

With that said, prepare your marinade. I did grate up some tangerine zest for this. After all, I’ve already bought tangerines to use for it, and I like the idea of using the entire fruit – nothing goes to waste.


The cut up chicken will go into a container or sealable plastic bag with the soy sauce, sherry, and grated tangerine peel.


Let it marinate for 30 minutes.

While this is going on, start your rice. The Jasmine rice I used for this takes 20 minutes to cook, but there’s also the couple of minutes it takes to get the water to a boil. So start that now by getting the water on. As soon as the water is boiling, throw in your rice, and set the timer. At this point, as soon as the rice is done, the dish is done.

Put your sauce together. Squeeze 1/4 cup tangerine juice and orange juice into a bowl (okay fine, I admit that I used orange juice from a container, but at least it wasn’t concentrate). I squeezed the juice of two tangerines and it came to about 1/4 cup. Then I just filled up the rest of the cup with orange juice.


Add rice vinegar or regular vinegar and cornstarch. Mix it up enough that the cornstarch isn’t a bunch of little blobs and set it aside.

Chop your vegetables. If you want your red bell pepper to look like pretty little matchsticks, lop off the tops and bottoms. If you prefer not to waste anything, then just slice it up. Either way, it all tastes the same going down.


Once your vegetables are ready to go, your chicken should be done marinating. Heat up your frying pan or wok on medium heat. Add garlic, ginger and cayenne and saute for 15 seconds.


Then, start tossing your chicken in. I didn’t dump the whole batch in there. Instead, I scooped the chicken out of the marinade in little batches, shook it off a bit, and then put it into the pan. The remaining marinade was discarded.


Stir-fry until just cooked through, which will be about 4 or 5 minutes. Stir the chicken a bit so that it cooks on all sides. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Put your vegetables in the wok or frying pan and cook until crisp-tender, or about 2 minutes.


Then, put your chicken back in, pour the tangerine sauce on top of it, and mix it all up. Simmer and stir constantly for about 1 minute. The sauce will thicken a bit.


Put it on top of your rice and eat.


One thought on “Weeknight Cooking: Sweet & Sour Tangerine Chicken Stir Fry

  1. I made this again last night and was so thrilled with the results. For minimal effort, anyone can make this delicious and nutritious dish. When I go out for Chinese, I usually order whatever “Orange Chicken” dish they have on the menu, and this is a healthy alternative. Tangerine season is about over now, so make this while you can get great, seasonal fruit!


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