We love Panda Express at our house. Too much, really. I think we could eat there every night if we had unlimited dollars and no respect for our health. Unfortunately, we have very limited dollars, and occasional respect for our health, so it’s a no-go. Lately, I’ve been spending time online looking up copycat recipes, then modifying them to fit our budget. I’ve also been working on making them healthier too.
My greatest success so far has been with sweetfire chicken. Thai chili sauce lends just the right amount of sweet and hot, and the combination of onions, pepper, and pineapple is so flavorful and colorful, it looks almost as good as it tastes.
The problem was with frying the chicken. I hate frying things because it covers my kitchen in oil. Also, I invariably burn myself. And it’s not the best for the calorie side of things. The fix? Bake the chicken into nuggets before stir frying them with the rest of the ingredients. We actually can’t tell the difference here, but I bet our waistlines would thank us if they could.
Panda Express actually sells the sweetfire chicken sauce (you can get it at Smith’s/Fred Meyer). We’ve tried both, and my family didn’t think the Panda Express sauce tasted substantially different from the no-brand Thai chili sauce. Since Panda’s cost about $3.50, and the chili sauce only runs you $1.89 (at least in Logan, UT), I’ve made the obvious choice and gone cheap.
In fact, this meal is really very frugal. One bottle of sauce will give you two recipes worth of sweetfire chicken, making the total cost for this recipe $3.58. That’s only 89¢ per serving! Certainly a lot kinder to the pocketbook than going out to take care of that sweetfire chicken craving!
Do you have a favorite copycat recipe? Let us know in the comments!