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Chinese Lemon Chicken

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This Lemon Chicken recipe is based on several attempts to produce something like the dish that one can enjoy in several of the best Chinese restaurants locally. It is more in the true Guangdong style than the blatantly obvious "deep fried in sweet batter" that characterises some  anglicised Cantonese cooking. The flavour is designed to be subtle whilst preserving the character of the chicken. Both preparation and cooking times are quite short and there are no special techniques used. The quantities shown here are sufficient for 4 to 6 servings. Warning: do not try to make too much of this dish at once as you will find that the initial cooking stage will not work correctly.

Serve with a simple vegetable dish and plain or simple egg fried rice to appreciate the nature of this dish. A Sauvignon Blanc or similar dry to medium white wine will provide a good companion for this dish.

  • 500g (1lb 2oz) chicken breast off the bone and skinned
  • 1 large egg white (use the yolk in egg fried rice)
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) salt
  • 1 heaped tablespoon (20ml) cornflour
  • 125ml (4 fl oz) vegetable oil or groundnut oil, you could also use a mixture
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of finely chopped garlic, about 4 medium sized cloves
  • 6 tablespoons (90ml) of chicken stock made from powder or cube but preferably without any herbs
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) of lemon juice
  • 2 heaped tablespoons (40ml) of finely chopped spring onions
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • The grated zest from one fresh clean medium sized lemon
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) of rice wine or dry sherry, we use a low cost UK sherry
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) sugar


  • More finely chopped spring onions, uncooked



Mix the half of the cornflour with the egg white and salt in a large bowl making sure that there are no lumps. Cut the chicken into strips approximately 1 - 2 cm (0.5 - 1") long and 5mm thick and add to the cornflour mix. Stir to mix, cover and place in the fridge or another very cool place for at least half an hour. During this time, perform the remainder of the preparation.

Put the vegetable oil in a large, well seasoned wok or non-stick large frying pan and heat until very hot. Turn off the heat and add the marinaded chicken mixture. Allow to stand for a few minutes until the chicken has taken on a white colour all over, if necessary heat very gently to help. As soon as the chicken is white, strain through a sieve or colander retaining one tablespoon (15ml) of the oil. Keep the chicken to one side. Wipe out the the wok or pan if necessary to prevent any sticking.

Mix the other half of the cornflour with a little cold water, stir until smooth. Heat the wok or pan again and add the reserved oil. Add the garlic and fry until it is just going golden brown, if the pan is hot enough this could be just a few seconds. Add the stock (take care not to get hot oil splashes), lemon juice, zest, rice wine, sugar, chopped spring onions and soy sauce. Bring to a simmer stirring occasionally. Add the cornflour mix and stir for a minute or two then add the chicken and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on a fairly high heat stirring all the time. Just before serving, stir in the sesame oil. Serve garnished with some more chopped spring onion.

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Updated 02/02/2005