Lemon Chicken

Voice Card  -  Volume 26  -  Paul Card Number 8  -  Sun, Nov 1, 1992 9:37 PM

This is a response to VC 25 Drury 7 ("Food. . .")...

Back in the good old days, I collected Chinese cookbooks. I think I was up to 30 or 40 before I lost them all. Now I'm down to fewer than ten, and only two of those are repeat purchases. If I had to start all over again for a third time, I would get by with maybe three Chinese cookbooks; the others are mostly a waste of money.

One of the most ubiquitous recipes in these cookbooks, and one of the most poorly done, is Lemon Chicken. This is also be the second most common, most poorly prepared, meal at the million or so "Chinese" restaurants across the country - behind sweet-and-sour anything. I've grown to dislike it, and avoid it like the plague when eating out.

I have learned, though, to prepare two tasty and less known variations on Lemon Chicken - one braised, one steamed. So it was with a great deal of scepticism that I considered the following recipe in a rather attractive cookbook titled A Taste of Chinatown, by Joie Warner. To my surprise, the recipe title was quite defensible; this may indeed be

World's Greatest Lemon Chicken

3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes.

1 T water
1/4 t sugar
1/2 t cornstarch
1/2 t soy sauce
1/2 t rice wine
1/2 t sesame oil

1 T peanut oil
1 T finely chopped garlic
1 T finely chopped ginger
1 t coarsely chopped fermented black beans
Grated zest of one lemon
2 t hot bean sauce

Seasoning liquid:
3 T sugar
3 T lemon juice
3/4 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
1/2 t sesame oil

1 T cornstarch dissolved in 2 T cold water

1/2 c flour
1/4 c cornstarch
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/8 t salt
1/2 c water
1 T hot peanut oil

2 c peanut oil for deep frying

Combine chicken and marinade; marinate 1-24 hours, covered, in refrigerator.

Heat 1 T oil in small pan. Add garlic, ginger, black beans, and grated zest. Cook 1/2 min. Add hot bean sauce, then seasoning liquid, and bring to a boil. Pour in thickener, stirring until sauce is thickened.

Mix batter ingredients except hot oil; add chicken and stir to mix.

Heat the 2 c oil in a deep pan to 375 F; add 1 T hot oil to batter and stir.

Spoon batter covered chicken pieces into oil, deep-frying in two batches for 3 minutes or until golden brown.

Drizzle hot sauce over chicken and garnish with lemon slices.

N.B. Larry, I'm dying to see your version of Lemon Chicken with Black Beans. Where does it come from?