This dish is one of the most popular Chinese dishes found around the world, especially in England, Canada and Australia, but funny enough not so much in China! I remember when I was working at restaurants in London while I was a student; ‘Lemon Chicken’ was one of the top three dishes that people ordered!
It is actually not so hard to understand why it is such a popular dish – crispy chicken strips coated with tangy sweet sauce. It is popular with the big and the small. The other night, my 3 years old was fighting with my husband for the last piece of chicken on the plate! So I am sure your whole family will enjoy it just as much!
There are few different ways of preparing the chicken: some like to cook the chicken filet whole and then slice it before serving. I like to cut it in strips and then deep-fry it. I found it is much quicker to cook and every single piece of chicken will be crispy on the outside and tender in the inside. But please do what you feel most comfortable with; I am sure you will enjoy it either way!
For the chicken:
- 2 organic chicken breast fillets / or thighs, cut into strips
- Pinch of each salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp. Shaoxing rice wine
- Potato flour (or cornstarch) for coating
- Vegetable for deep-frying
For the lemon sauce:
- Juice of half a lemon, plus more to taste
- Lemon pieces for garnish (I ran out of lemon, so I cheated it with lime!)
- 150ml water
- 2 tsp. sugar, (or 3 tsp. Agave syrup) plus more to taste
- ¼ tsp. organic chicken stock granule (optional)
- A pinch of salt (to taste)
- 1 heaped tsp. cornstarch
- 2 tbsp. water
- Sesame seeds for garnish
For the veggie fried rice:
- 4 cups of cooked rice
- A large handful of broccoli (or any vegetable of your choice), roughly chopped into small pieces
- 1 egg, beaten
- A pinch of salt
- A drizzle of soy sauce
- A drizzle of sesame oil
- Vegetable oil
First we marinate the chicken: in a bowl, mix chicken strips with Shaoxing rice wine, salt and pepper. Set a side for about 10 minutes. Prepare some potato flour on a shallow plate, coat the chicken strips with the flour (do this just before you are ready to deep-fry the chicken) and shake off excess flour before placing them in the oil for deep-frying.
While the chicken is marinating, we cook the veggie fried rice – in a wok or non-stick pan on high heat – scramble the egg with a little bit vegetable oil, then remove the cooked egg to a plate and set aside. In the same pan, add a splash of oil and fry the broccoli for about 2 minutes. Then add the cooked rice and fry for another 2 to 3 minutes until the rice is hot and the broccoli is cooked. Add a pinch of salt and drizzle some soy sauce, mix well and check the seasoning, add more soy sauce if needed. Tip in the egg and drizzle sesame oil and mix again until well combined. Set aside and keep warm.
Now we cook the chicken: heat a wok or heavy bottom frying pan on high heat; pour in about 1 inch deep of vegetable oil, wait until the oil is hot enough (check by dropping a little flour in the oil, if it sizzles immediately, the oil is ready.). Carefully drop the floured chicken strips in the oil one by one, do not overcrowd them in the pan and fry them in batches if necessary. Turn the heat down to medium and turn them once or twice until they are golden and cooked through. Place them on a cooling rack (place a plate underneath lined with a paper towel), it ensures the chicken will remain crispy. Once all the chicken is cooked, we can make the sauce.
Mix the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl until smooth, set aside. Put all remaining ingredients for the sauce in a shallow pan on medium high heat. Stir continually until all the sugar has dissolved (or until the liquid is well combined with the Agave syrup if used). Check the seasoning. If the sauce tastes to your liking, slowly pour the cornstarch mixture into the sauce while you are stirring. You need to work fast as you don’t want the cornstarch to form lumps in the sauce. Stir until the sauce thickens. You can either throw the chicken in and quickly coat them with the sauce, or place the chicken on a plate and simple pour the sauce on. Garnish with sesame seed and lemon slices. Served with the veggie rice.