Lemon chicken reminds me of my son. For many years he lived in a small desert town with only a handful of restaurants. The upside to having nowhere to eat, is that he became a great cook. This came in handy after he married a lovely girl who still can’t boil water. On a visit with us a few years ago, he told a funny story about buying lemon chicken at the only Chinese restaurant in town. Apparently this lemon chicken was the crème de la crème of lemon chicken. The problem was, not just anybody could buy the lemon chicken. As the story goes, the restaurant owner picks and chooses who get’s it and who doesn’t. If you’re a Seinfeld fan, think “Soup Nazi.” It was sort of like that. Mark’s story included funny tales of fellow officers claiming Monday morning bragging rights for scoring lemon chicken over the weekend. I guess that’s what cops do in a town without a doughnut shop!
I enjoyed the story then and remembering it again now. My son has since moved to the Palm Springs area where restaurants abound. But I am guessing he still remembers that lemon chicken.
My refrigerator veggie drawers are still full of Meyer lemons, so I decided to make Chinese-style lemon chicken for dinner. I read many recipes and found that there is great debate about how lemon chicken is supposed to be prepared. There is Chinese lemon chicken, Americanized Chinese lemon chicken, lemon chicken, and so on. Wishing to steer clear of the debate, I am calling mine Chinese-Style Lemon Chicken. The sauce is lemony, tart, and a bit spicy with the addition of red pepper and a little grated ginger. I loved it, but Michael was a bit wary at first, but ended up loving it. Especially tasty was the chicken itself. I was really happy with the way it came out. I saved a few strips to cook after dinner so I could take photos, and I admit that several were missing in the last shot.
- 2 boneless (skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips)
- For the marinade:
- 3 TBS low sodium soy sauce
- 2 TBS sherry cooking wine
- 1 TBS cornstarch
- Zest of one lemon (save the juice for the sauce)
- For the sauce
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Zest of one lemon
- Pinch of salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 tsp grated ginger
- 2 TBS rice wine vinegar
- 2 TBS low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tsp red chili paste (or red pepper flakes)
- 1 TBS orange marmalade (optional)
- 5 TBS water
- 2 tsp corn starch
- For the chicken
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- Peanut oil for frying chicken
- Sliced green onions
- Toasted white sesame seeds
- Steamed Rice
- Mix the ingredients for the marinade and pour over the chicken. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Mix all the ingredients for the Sauce except the water and cornstarch. Set aside.
- Remove the marinated chicken from the marinating liquid. Dredge the chicken strips in the corn starch and all-purpose flour mixture. Heat a skillet or wok with about two inches of peanut oil. As soon as the oil is fully heated, deep-fry the chicken until golden brown. Transfer the cooked chicken to a baking tray lined with paper towels. Repeat until all the chicken is cooked. Keep chicken warm in a 250 degree oven if needed.
- Add all the sauce ingredients, except the water and cornstarch, into a small sauce pan and bring it to a quick boil. Add the cornstarch to the water and mix to make a slurry. Slowing pour the slurry into the sauce, stirring constantly until the thickness you want is achieved. This should happen almost immediately. Remove from heat.
- Transfer the fried chicken to a serving dish and pour the sauce over. If you are not serving it immediately, add the sauce at serving time to keep the chicken crispy.
- Top with the white sesame seeds and scallions, and serve immediately with steamed rice. This chicken can also be served as an appetizer with the sauce on the side for dipping.