This is my newly developed Chinese lemon chicken recipe that has been well tested. The goal is to create a method with chicken that is crispy even after doused with the sauce, and the outstanding lemon flavor lingers on your palate.

Although there are many restaurants served excellent Chinese lemon chicken, some regrettably fall short of being excellent. The chicken is drenched in a pool of sauce which immediately turns soggy. Some are cooked with a gooey cornstarch sauce with hardly noticeable lemon flavor.

This recipe has addressed these shortcomings, which you will expect:

The chicken will stay crispy.
The flavor of lemon came through sharply.
The meat is flavorful inside out, not just on the surface.

Let’s look at the detail of each ingredient, followed by the method of preparing the Chinese style lemon chicken.

This is my newly developed Chinese lemon chicken recipe that has been well tested. The chicken will stay crispy. The flavor of lemon came through sharply. The meat is flavorful inside out, not just on the surface.

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The key ingredients for Chinese lemon chicken

Chicken: breast versus thigh meat

You can use either chicken breast or thigh meat for the Chinese lemon chicken. Cut the chicken breast into boneless bite-size, either with the skin on or removed.

Asian prefers chicken thigh over breast meat. Some chefs like to leave the bone on as well and cut the chicken into small chunks. Again, this is entirely up to you.

Corn flour versus plain flour

Cornflour is included in the marinade, the flour mix for coating the chicken and as the thickening agent for the sauce.

The purpose of adding cornflour to the marinate is to pre-coat the chicken. Since the dry coating mix may not be able to coat the entire piece of chicken. Therefore, adding cornflour to the marinade will let the flour coat evenly on the chicken, and prevent it from turning dry and hard.

Cornflour is the significant component of the dry coating mix for the chicken. Cornflour can create a crispy crust, which will stay crisp even after drizzle with the lemon sauce.

Plain flour is used as part of the dry coating mix together with the corn flour.

Plain flour alone will not create a coating that stays crispy for a long time. On the other hand, corn flour alone will form a hardened coating. The combination of cornflour and plain flour produce an excellent mix to create a crispy and airy crust.

Soy sauce

Light soy sauce is used as I want to keep the color of the chicken light and golden brown. Soy sauce has its own umani which enhances the flavor of any food.

Egg white

The purpose of egg white in the marinade is similar to the egg in the western standard coating (flour, egg, breadcrumb). It adds flavor and protect the meat from drying out during deep-frying.

Lemon

Both lemon juice and the zest should be used in the recipe.

Lemon zest is the orange color part of the lemon skin. It contains the essential oil that contributes to the aromatic lemon flavor.

The pith of the lemon (the white color part of the lemon skin) is bitter and should not be used. Zest the top layer of the peel only.

On the other hand, the lemon juice is acidic (mainly citric acid and malic acid) and has its own flavor.

The sauce should include the juice and the zest, as they provide different flavors. If you want to add a pop to the sauce, use more lemon juice that will enliven your palate.

Honey

Honey balances the sourness of the lemon juice. You may want to use sugar, molasses for the same reason. I like to use honey because of its flavor.

Chinese lemon chicken

How to cook the Chinese lemon chicken

There are three simple steps for this recipe:

Step one – Marinate the chicken

Marinate will let the flavor of the seasonings penetrate deep into the meat. This is an essential step to ensure the inner part of the chicken is equally flavorful since the sauce only covers the surface. Marinate ensure every bite is tasty even for the chicken chunks.

Cut the chicken (breast or thigh meat) into bite-size if it is boneless, and small chunks if it is bone-in.

Add the cornflour, soy sauce, ground white pepper, and some Shaoxing wine. Combine all the ingredients in a large stainless steel bowl. Cover with cling film or store in a container with a lid. Marinate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight in the refrigerator.

Step two – Coating the chicken for deep frying

Marinate the chicken should be done in advance. However, it is best to coat the chicken with the dry coating mix just before deep frying.

Combine the dry coating mix with the chicken pieces. Add some if it is insufficient to cover all the chicken. Any excess will fall off from the chicken.

Shake off the excess flour. Deep fried in hot oil at 180°C/350°F for four minutes for the bite-size meat or six minutes for the small chunks with bone. The end point is when the color turns golden brown.
Remove the chicken from the oil and set aside.

The composition of the flour mix vary, but below is my favorite

  • 100g of plain flour
  • 100g of corn flour
  • 1g of salt
  • 4g of baking powder

This is my secret combination which works beautifully for most of my Chinese deep frying dishes.

The baking powder lightens the structure of the coating, make it airier and less dense.
The salt helps to improve the flavor, especially those part of the chicken is not drizzled with the lemon sauce.

Chinese lemon chicken with rice

Step 3- Making the sauce.

The sauce has the combination of the sweetness of honey, the sharpness of the juice, and the aroma from the zest. Drizzle on the chicken, and it is ready to serve.

Adding the sauce by following these steps:

  • Boil the sugar, water, and cornstarch over low heat in a small pot or saucepan. Remove it from heat once the sugar is dissolved, the sauce thickens and turns translucent.
  • Set aside until it returns to room temperature.
  • Add the lemon juice and zest. Mix well. Place the chicken on a large piece of lettuce.
  • Drizzle the sauce on the chicken. Garnish with roasted white sesame and cut scallion.

7 Tips to make the best Chinese lemon chicken

Below is the summary of what you should pay attention to succeed in this recipe:

  1. Marinate the chicken is an integral part of the preparation which should not be omitted.
  2. Dry coating yields a more crispy crust then batter.
  3. The inclusion of corn flour in the flour mix yields a long-lasting crunchy crust.
  4. Add some baking powder to the coating mixture to make it airier.
  5. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice only AFTER the sugar/cornflour mixture of the sauce is at room temperature. This method can ensure the sharp flavor and aroma of the lemon is not lost.
  6. Do not be ‘greedy’ when you zest the lemon. The sauce will become bitter even a small amount of pith (the white part of the peel) is present.
  7. Drizzle the sauce onto the chicken, NOT coating the sauce with the chicken in the wok, as this redundant step wet the chicken too much, will cause the chicken losing its crunchiness.
  8. Enhance the flavor and appearance with some cut scallion and roasted white sesame seeds.
Yield: 3 servings

Chinese Lemon Chicken

Chinese Lemon Chicken

This is my newly developed Chinese lemon chicken recipe that has been well tested. The goal is to create a method with chicken that is crispy even after doused with the sauce, and the outstanding lemon flavor lingers on your palate.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 25 minutes

Ingredients

Ingredients A

Ingredients B (Marinade):

Ingredients C (Coating flour mix)

Ingredients D (Lemon Sauce):

  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 5 tsp sugar
  • 200 ml water
  • Lemon zest, from 2 lemons
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions

Marinate the chicken

  1. Cut the chicken breast into boneless bite-size.
  2. Add salt, egg white, white pepper, sugar, Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, and cornstarch. Mix well.
  3. Marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Coating the chicken for deep frying

  1. Combine corn flour, plain flour, baking powder and salt as flour mix
  2. Add the flour mix to the chicken pieces. Add more if it is insufficient to cover all the chicken. Any excess flour will fall off from the chicken.
  3. Shake off the excess flour. Deep fried in hot oil at 180°C/350°F for four minutes or when the color turns golden brown.
  4. Remove the chicken from the oil. Drain the oil on a kitchen towel and set aside.

Making the lemon sauce.

  1. Place the sugar, constarch and water in a small pot or saucepan. Remove it when the sugar is dissolved, the sauce thickens and turns translucent.
  2. Set aside until it returns to room temperature.
  3. Add the honey, lemon juice, lemon zest to the cornstarch mixture that has cool down to room temperature. Mix well.
  4. Place the chicken on a large piece of lettuce.
  5. Drizzle the sauce on the chicken. Garnish with roasted white sesame and cut scallion.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

3

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 780 Total Fat: 17g Saturated Fat: 3g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 12g Cholesterol: 142mg Sodium: 1823mg Carbohydrates: 97g Fiber: 7g Sugar: 33g Protein: 62g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 3/17/2019

    11 replies to "Chinese lemon chicken – How to make in 3 simple steps"

    • KP Kwan

      Hi, this is KP Kwan. I am happy to see you in this comment area, as you have read through my recipe. I am glad to reply to any questions and comments as soon as possible.

    • Sally Mak

      Hi Mr Kwan
      Your Chinese Lemon Chicken looks delicious. Will definitely try it out as lemon is in season now.
      Thanks for sharing.
      Sally

      • KP Kwan

        You are welcome. It takes only a short time to prepare the lemon chicken, perfect when you are busy 🙂

    • Li Ching Bucholtz

      thank you very much, Mr. Kwan for your generosity in sharing your delicious recipes.

      • KP Kwan

        You are welcome. Hope you will cook and enjoy the lemon chicken.
        Regards.

        • Li Ching Bucholtz

          I already did. My husband and I love them…

    • kmrkmr

      hw many tablespoon of honey?
      from the video show one tablespoon 15mls, but from detail is 4 TB
      tq

      • KP Kwan

        Hi,
        It is 4 tablespoons as in the recipe. I try to cut the video short and therefore you only see me pouring the first tablespoon. Sorry for the confusion.
        KP Kwan

    • Mark Lai

      what is the difference between cornflour and cornstarch? others tells that it is different while others tells that it is the same. so what is it really?

    • Mark Lai

      hi. what is the difference of corn flour and corn starch? other says that it is different while others tell that its just the same. so what is your opinion on this KP? thanks

      • KP Kwan

        Hi Mark,
        I am referring to the same thing 🙂

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