Forget American Chinese recipes for “lemon chicken” that involve battered and deep-fried chunks of chicken in a sticky sauce. This dish is light, fragrant, spicy, and fresh. The chicken stays tender and juicy because of the velveting technique (see step 2 below), and the citrus flavor is nicely balanced by the depth of the soy sauce and the mild heat from the chiles.
Plus, it’s a “simple” recipe, which by my definition means something that can be completely finished in the time it takes to cook the rice.
For the chicken:
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into thin slices
- 1 egg white
- 1 tsp potato flour
- 1 Tbsp peanut oil
- 1 medium shallot, sliced into thin pieces
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4″ ginger, minced
For the sauce:
- Juice of 3 medium or 2 large limes
- 5 Tbsp chicken stock
- 1 Tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp Guilin chili sauce (桂林辣椒酱), substitute 1-2 tsp sambal oelek or 1 tsp dried chili flakes
- 1 tsp potato flour in 1 Tbsp water
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- Combine the egg white and potato flour, then add the chicken slices and combine well. Let sit chilled for about 10-15 minutes.
- Cook the chicken with the “velvet” technique: heat 2 quarts water until boiling. Add the chicken and stir well; cook very briefly (only about 1 minute, just until the chicken turns white), then drain into a colander.
- Heat the peanut oil in your wok until it just begins to smoke, then add the chicken. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds then add the shallot and stir-fry for another 30 seconds. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for another 30 seconds.
- Add the lime juice, chicken stock, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, and chili sauce; stir well and heat until bubbling.
- Mix the potato flour with the water, then add this mixture to the wok. Stir for a few seconds until the sauce thickens. Pour in the sesame oil, stir well, and serve.
Variations: Use chunks of duck instead of chicken. Or, if you don’t have chicken stock, substitute 4 Tbsp water while doubling the light soy sauce (to 2 Tbsp).