This orange beef recipe (陈皮牛 – chén pí niú in Mandarin), is crafted with a mix of interesting, complex flavors.
Shallow-fried beef is complemented by fresh orange and fragrant dried mandarin peel, along with aromatics like star anise, dried red chili peppers, ginger, garlic, and scallion.
Note: This post was originally published in December 2013. We have since re-tested and re-photographed it, and we’re posting it here with clearer instructions, new photos, and metric measurements. We have also included the original version of the recipe at the bottom of the post.
What is Chinese Dried Orange Peel?
Aromatic Chinese dried orange peel provides the star flavor of this dish (which is why it is sometimes called “orange peel beef”).
Dried Mandarin orange peel (陈皮 – chén pí), is produced in China using a variety of sour orange that is grown only for its peels.
Producers harvest the oranges, remove the peels, and then sun-dry them and package them to keep on the shelf for years.
Purists treat aged Mandarin peels like tea or wine, and they claim that they only get more flavorful with age.
Where Can I Get Dried Mandarin Orange Peel?
You can find dried mandarin peels in any well-stocked Chinese grocery store. They have a strong, unique flavor that’s slightly bitter, with a citrus aroma.
If you cannot find them, you can make your own dried orange peels at home as a substitution. Now is the time to do it—when citrus is in season!
(You can actually do this with fresh mandarin oranges, tangerines, or clementines.)
It’s important to note that you must use a thin skinned peel. Don’t try drying regular orange peels, because the flavor is not as concentrated, and the skin is too thick.
What is Crispy Orange Beef?
So why is this dish sometimes called crispy orange beef? The answer is in the beef preparation.
You’re not only going to marinate the beef, you’re also going to dredge it in cornstarch and fry it in the wok to form a crispy crust.
This is similar to the technique we use in our popular Mongolian beef recipe.
When topped with our aromatic Mandarin orange peel sauce, the crispy beef soaks up the sauce and results in a delightful mix of textures and flavors.
On to the recipe!
Orange Beef Recipe Instructions
Slice the beef against the grain into 2- to 3-inch (5-7cm) pieces, between ⅛- to ¼-inch (about 0.5cm) thick.
Add the beef to a medium bowl, along with the water, cornstarch, orange juice, oil, oyster sauce, baking soda, and five spice powder, if using.
Marinate for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce mixture.
In a medium bowl, add the warm water and sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then add the orange marmalade, orange juice, light soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, and white pepper.
Stir to combine, and set aside.
Put ¼ cup of cornstarch in a shallow bowl or dish. Dredge a few pieces of the marinated beef, shaking off any excess cornstarch.
(It’s best to dredge the beef right before adding it to the hot cooking oil—see next step).
Heat ⅓ cup of vegetable oil in your wok over high heat, stirring for even heating, until it just starts to smoke.
Spread a few beef slices evenly in the wok.
Sear the beef in batches (each piece of beef should be in contact with the oil) for 45 seconds to 1 minute on each side, until browned.
Drain away any excess oil from the beef, and remove the pieces from the wok. Repeat in batches until you’ve cooked all the beef. Set aside.
In a pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add ½ teaspoon salt and ½ tablespoon oil.
Add the broccoli, and cook for 45 seconds (or a few seconds longer if you like your broccoli softer).
Drain and arrange the broccoli in a border around your serving plate.
(If you prefer, you can also add the broccoli to the sauce later along with the beef.)
Back to your wok. Remove the excess frying oil, leaving 1 tablespoon behind. Over medium-low heat, add the ginger slices, dried chilies, dried orange peel, and star anise.
For those of you who love the strong flavors of the dried orange peel like I do, you can break the peels up into smaller pieces and get some in every bite of beef!
Stir to caramelize the ginger and toast the star anise and dried chilies—about 30 to 60 seconds.
Add the garlic and scallions, stir-fry for another 30 seconds.
Then pour in the sauce.
Increase the heat to medium-high to bring the sauce to a simmer. Once simmering, slowly stir in the cornstarch slurry, and cook until the sauce thickens enough to coat a spoon.
Toss in the beef (and the broccoli if you’d rather have it stirred into the sauce).
Scoop onto the serving plate and serve immediately.