The preparation time for this dish of Lemon Chicken is about 15 minutes. Allow another 15 minutes for cooking, and you'll have dinner on the table in about half an hour.
Just follow Martin Yan's directions in "Chinese Cooking for Dummies" (IDG Books, $19.99 paperback). This is a Cantonese classic, Yan writes, a citrusy treatment of chicken that combines sweet and sour flavors with savory meat. "No wonder you find versions of it on almost every Chinese restaurant menu in the West."
The book, one of a series, offers a wealth of information on Chinese cooking for curious and interested readers -- disregard the series' title suggesting you're a dummy if you read it.
Chicken breast, with its tenderness and mild flavor, works well in this recipe, with the simple garnish of lemon slices and cilantro. The lemon picks up the sauce's flavor, while the cilantro brings its own bright colors and flavor notes to the dish.
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup cooking oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (see note)
Make a sauce by combining the chicken broth, lemon juice, soy sauce, brown sugar and lemon zest in a small saucepan; set aside.
In a bowl, beat the egg lightly with the salt and white pepper. Dredge the chicken breasts with the cornstarch; dip into the egg batter and dredge in the cornstarch again. Let chicken pieces stand for 5 minutes. Just before cooking, shake off the excess cornstarch.
In a wok, heat the oil until hot. Pan-fry the chicken, a couple of pieces at a time, turning occasionally, until golden-brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat; add the cornstarch solution and cook, stirring, until the sauce boils and thickens.
Cut the chicken across the grain into 1/2-inch slices. Place the chicken on a serving plate. Pour the sauce on top and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
Makes 4 servings.
Note: To toast sesame seeds, place seeds in a small, dry pan and cook over low heat, swirling the pan to expose all surfaces to the heat. When the seeds look slightly colored and release their aroma, after 3 to 4 minutes, remove them from the heat immediately, to avoid burning them.
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