Los Angeles, CA

Orange Chicken Turns 35: Here Are the Facts To Know

Let's Eat LA

In 1987, Los Angeles-based fast food chain, Panda Express, created an instant classic

Original Orange Chicken at Panda Express is 35 years oldCredit: Panda Express

(Los Angeles, CA) - Orange Chicken, the signature dish of Panda Express, is celebrating its 35th birthday this year.

Today Panda Express sells 68 million pounds per year and 50% of customers order it with their meal.

The company created the sweet and sour chicken concoction 35 years ago today. and It has since become one of the most popular dishes in the country's largest Chinese-American fast food chain.

The credit of the original Orange Chicken dish goes to classically-trained Chef Andy Kao.

Kao developed the original Chinese-American recipe at a Panda Express in Hawai'i and was inspired by flavors from the Hunan Province in China.

Although orange chicken is commonly referred to as Chinese food in North America, it's not widely available in China. Panda Express co-founder Andrew Cherng claims that this dish is a variation of General Tso's chicken, which is a relatively unknown dish in China.

The Orange Chicken recipe has been adapted by many other restaurants across the country, but Panda Express is considered the originator of this Americanized Chinese favorite.

“For 35 years, The Original Orange Chicken has been a quintessential American Chinese dish that stood the test of time and remains Panda’s best-selling menu item,” said Jimmy Wang, Executive Director of Culinary Innovation at Panda Express told Business Insight. “This iconic dish has revolutionized the concept of American Chinese cuisine – a timeless cuisine that takes a hybrid approach of bridging cultures, ingredients, and flavors while respecting its roots.”

The history of Panda Express in Los Angeles

Panda Express is a fast-food chain that was founded in 1973 by Andrew Cherng and his father, Ming-Tsai Cherng.

Its first establishment was in California, called Panda Inn, in Pasadena. Panda Inn was a sit-down restaurant that was very different from the fast food offered by the company's later restaurants.

Panda Inn in Los AngelesCredit: Panda Express

In 1982, Peggy Cherng, Andrew's wife, joined him in the restaurant business.

After meeting UCLA Head Football coach, Terry Donahue, and his brother, the manager of the Glendale Galleria, they decided to create a fast food version of Panda Inn for the Los Angeles mall in 1983.

Peggy and Andrew Cherng of Panda ExpressCredit: Panda Express website

Final thoughts

Apart from Orange Chicken, Panda Express dispatches 282 million fortune cookies per year and their charity, Panda Cares gives over $250 million to worthy causes.

Since its inception in California, the company has grown to over 2,200 locations worldwide and has generated over $3 billion in sales. It is the largest Asian dining concept in the US and it all began in Los Angeles.

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Disclaimer: This article is only for educational and informational purposes and not affiliated with the business featured in this story.

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