Orange-glazed anything is probably the epitome of Chinese takeout. Other majorly defining characteristics of Chinese takeout includes Kung Pao, dumplings, wontons, fried rice, chow mein, Ma Po tofu, and lots and LOTS of salt. Sometimes MSG. In fact, depending on where you visit, MSG is involved quite often.
But all that aside, Chinese takeout really likes to amp up the flavors. I find that a lot of Chinese dishes all have this really loud, stubborn, and sassy attitude. The sauces, the textures, and the flavors all scream: “We are here, and you’re going to LOVE how we taste.” I don’t know if that’s just me, but I have always sensed that whenever eating Chinese food. Nothing wrong with that, of course! So much better to have an overpowering dish than something super bland!
With that being said, a lot of Americanized brands of Chinese food are generally modest when it comes to the flavors and spiciness factor. I’ve decided to create a recipe that caters to all audiences: those who are more conservative with their tastebuds, those who love 100% authentic Chinese cuisine, and the health-oriented audience. You have the spiciness, the salt, the sweetness, the juicy orange-flavor, and the stickiness on each vegetable. Can you really go wrong with that combination?
Yes, you don’t see Brussels sprouts or butternut squash too often in Chinese food, but I personally chose to include my favorite vegetables in this recipe. In addition, I incorporated soy curls into this recipe to bulk up the protein content. Essentially, soy curls are a form of textured and de-fatted soy protein that come in chicken-like strips. Nutritionally speaking, they are incredibly high in protein, fiber, and iron, and low in saturated fat, making them an amazing plant-based substitute for chicken. You know me and opportunities to explore different vegan ingredients. I never pass.
I absolutely love this twist on an orange stir-fry for almost all the reasons I listed above. The sauce is sweet, thick, sticky, spicy, and salty at the same time, whereas the onions are caramelized, the eggplant and butternut squash are perfectly cooked, and the spinach and soy curls are so crisp and tender. Obviously, you can put your own spin on the ingredients and replace the vegetables with broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, mushrooms, and/or string beans. Alternatively, for protein sources, tofu, tempeh, seitan, and edamame are great options, or if you are not vegan, just go for beef, shrimp, or chicken. The possibilities are endless!
RECIPE (sauce; serves 4-6)
- 1 cup of maple syrup or any mild-tasting liquid sweetener; I used Lakanto’s monk fruit maple syrup
- 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 TBSP sweet tamari or soy sauce (if not gluten free)
- 1 TBSP rice vinegar
- 1 tsp Sriracha or chili sauce
- 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
- 1 1/3 TBSP cornstarch or tapioca starch
- Use tapioca starch if you plan on having leftovers
- Orange zest to garnish (optional–I really wish I had this, though!)
- Rice, salad greens, noodles, or cauliflower rice to serve with
RECIPE (stir-fry; serves 4-6)
- 1 pound of eggplant, cubed
- 1 pound of spinach
- 4 ounces of yellow onion, sliced
- 2 pounds of butternut squash, cubed
- 1 pound of Brussels sprouts, sliced
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 bag of soy curls (optional, but highly recommended!)
- Optional (and substitutions): chili peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, string beans, etc.
- If using soy curls, soak the soy curls in a large bowl of water for at least ten minutes or overnight (water should be filled to the top where the soy curls reach).
- Drain the soy curls in a strainer and let dry when ready to cook.
- Set a large wok pan or wide pot on medium heat. Spray with non-stick spray or sesame oil if necessary.
- Thoroughly mix all sauce ingredients except the cornstarch in a small-medium bowl or large measuring beaker. Set aside.
- Cube the eggplant, butternut squash, quarter the Brussels sprouts, and slice/chop the onions (I personally prefer larger pieces of onion, but it’s really up to you as to how you want to cut them).
- Evenly stir-fry the crushed garlic and onions in the pan/pot.
- When the onions are completely translucent, add a fourth of a pound of the spinach at a time, spacing at least two or three minutes in between, or until the leaves are mostly wilted.
- Incorporate the eggplant and butternut squash, making sure they are covered in the spinach, onions, and garlic.
- Repeat with the Brussels sprouts and soy curls. Shake the pan periodically to allow the vegetables to become crispy around their edges!
- When the vegetables are mostly crispy, bring the heat to a simmer and cover the pot with a lid to allow the eggplant and squash to steam while you cook the sauce.
- Set a small pot on low heat. Spray with nonstick spray or sesame oil if needed.
- Carefully pour the sauce into the pot, mixing it around to warm it up evenly.
- In a small bowl or cup, mix the cornstarch with four tablespoons of cold water until a slurry is formed and all lumps are eliminated.
- Stir the cornstarch slurry into the sauce when warm, NOT hot. Continue to stir until the sauce begins to bubble up and thicken, almost like a liquified jam.
- Remove the sauce from the heat.
- Take off the lid from the wok pan and mix the sauce into the stir-fry.
- Serve immediately or store leftovers for up to three to four days.
What is your favorite Chinese takeout dish?