Chinese lemon chicken is one of those take out basics that it pays to learn how to make at home. Chances are you have the ingredients already and once you’ve made it a few times you’ll make it quite a few more times. And double it for left overs. This is a lighter, crunchier version where the breading is made only with the egg whites (a trick I learned from Marion Grasby’s Asian food website) and flour leavened with a bit of baking powder. If you substitute self rising flour you can delete the baking powder.
Next we have the two ingredients that really make this taste like restaurant Chinese food. They are Chinese light soy sauce and Shaoxing rice wine. If you have access to Asian markets in your area they should carry them. Most Americans use Kikkoman Soy Sauce which is Japanese and darker and more assertive which comes from the inclusion of roasted wheat in the recipe. Chinese light soy sauce uses wheat flour and is a bit saltier and to my mind a little more floral in aroma. The Shaoxing wine, Shaoxing Huang Jiu, means yellow wine. It’s made from fermented rice, is medium gold in color and has an alcohol content around 15%. It’s often used in marinades since it can eliminate the raw smell of meat and infuse a complex flavor to the dish. I love this stuff and it’s both cheap and delicious, however, if you don’t have it you may substitute dry sherry.
To get started you’ll make the marinade and drop in the chicken pieces. Then you will carefully pour the entire contents of the chicken & marinade into the flour shaking and pressing to get a good coating with lots of bumps that will fry up nicely.
Once that’s done make the sauce add the chicken until completely coated and serve over rice or with some greens or a delicious cucumber salad and garnish with green onions, sesame seeds or both. Because of the size it’s perfect party food so get cooking!
And last but not least …. for those who just can’t get it together to make this …. fear not! Five Happiness on Carrollton Avenue in New Orleans lemon chicken awaits you.
- For the Marinade:
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese shaoxing wine (rice wine)
- 1 egg white
- For the chicken:
- 1.5 lb chicken breast, cut into ¾ inch cubes*
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- Oil for frying
- For the sauce:**
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1½ tbsp light soy sauce
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 3 tbsp lemon juice (juice of about 2 lemons)
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 2 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tbsp water
- sesame seeds (black or white)
- sliced green onion (scallions)
- For the marinade:
- Using a large bowl add marinade ingredients, whisk together, then place chicken in it coating well. Let marinate for 20 minutes.
- For the chicken:
- Place the flour in a large tray or bowl. Pour the entire contents of the marinade bowl with the chicken parts into the flour and use your hands to pat and press the liquid and flour together around the chicken pieces to form a thick coating.
- Fill a wok or saucepan 1" to 2" deep with the vegetable oil. Heat over high heat. The oil is hot enough for frying at 325°F or 165°C or when a wooden spoon dipped into the oil forms small little bubbles around the edges.
- Shake excess flour from the chicken pieces and place in the hot oil. Do not crowd. Cook in 2 to 3 batches for about 3 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Drain on paper towels.
- For the sauce:
- Mix together the chicken stock, soy sauce and sugar.
- In a clean wok or pan over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil and then add the garlic and ginger. Cook for about 10 seconds or until fragrant. Then add the chicken stock mixture. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the sugar has dissolved. Then add the lemon juice and zest. Simmer for another 30 seconds before adding the cornstarch mixture. Cook for another 30 seconds or until sauce has thickened slightly. Add the chicken pieces and toss until evenly coated.
- Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with sesame seeds and spring onion. Garnish with lemon slices if desired.
**If you are making this in a seasoned wok or cast iron skillet consider cooking the sauce in a stainless steel saucepan as the amount of lemon juice may strip the seasoning off.