One fruit that I was interested in trying while in China was the elusive, non-canned Mandarin orange. I always thought of fresh Mandarin oranges as some sort of exotic wonder, rare enough to not be sold at my local grocer yet somehow prevalent enough to be topped on every single Asian chicken salad sold in the US (even at Wendy’s!). So when I came across these small little gems called sugar oranges I thought I had finally struck gold. They fit my idea of what I thought a fresh Mandarin orange would be: super small and very sweet. And while they’re called sugar oranges and not Mandarin oranges here, this seemed perfectly logical to me. After all, the Chinese probably don’t call their own oranges Mandarin oranges, right? It’d kinda be like calling our Thanksgiving centerpiece the American turkey. I can’t remember that phrase ever rolling off my tongue.
So of course, I googled Mandarin oranges with the expectation of finding that my beloved new fruit find was indeed the fresh version of the quintessential Asian chicken salad topper.
Turns out Mandarin Orange is a category of citrus fruits that includes clementines, tangerines, satsumas, etc. (Insert feelings of culinary ignorance here. Am I the only person who didn’t know this??) Talk about feeling jaded. I move to China expecting to “try the real thing” and come to find out I’ve been eating the real thing my entire life. Well, at least I can feel confident knowing that no matter where I am in the world, I’ll always have Mandarin oranges on hand for this great Pork in Mandarin & Sake Sauce recipe I recently tried. Sorry I don’t have a pic, but trust me it’s good. And if you decide to give this dish a try, at least now you know you don’t have to buy the canned version in order to get an “authentic” Mandarin orange flavor!