I have always been massively underwhelmed when ordering lemon chicken at Chinese restaurants to the extent that I never order it anymore as I don’t want to have further disappointments. It’s always far too sweet and the chicken looks too white and unappealing. So you can guess how delighted I was when I recently tried Neil Perry’s ‘Steamed Lemon Chicken’ recipe that actually tasted really good. I am a HUGE fan of the Australian chef and his beautifully presented book ‘Balance and Harmony’. It was in his book that I found this recipe that is now one of my absolute favourites.
The beauty of Perry’s ‘Steamed Lemon Chicken’ is that it is really really easy. Seriously it is definitely going to become one of my ‘go to’ recipes that I can rustle up really quickly and yet can also be perfect to offer guests coming around for dinner. Steaming the chicken really retains the flavour and tenderness through the use of steam and is one of the most healthy forms of cooking. It’s a win win.
The key with a good lemon chicken is to buy thighs and not breast meat folks as it is so much more tasty and tender. Seriously, do not think about buying breast meat for this recipe as it really won’t taste half as good. Trust me on this one.
The only alterations I have made to Perry’s recipe are:
1) As I did not have peanut oil to hand I used ground nut oil as an alternative.
2) Neil Perry’s recipe uses 350g of chicken and I have used 550g so my chicken needed more steaming time. He suggested 25 minutes but mine needed closer to 40 minutes.
Steamed Lemon Chicken
550g free-range or organic chicken thigh fillets, skin on (if possible), each cut into 3 pieces
1 1/2 (one and a half) lemons, quartered lengthways
a pinch of freshly ground white pepper
2 spring onions (scallions), cut into julienne
1 tbsp shaoxing
1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp peanut/ground nut oil
2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp sugar
1. Place the chicken thighs in a shallow heatproof bowl and squeeze the lemon juice over the chicken and add the lemon skins to the bowl.
2. Prepare the marinade and add to the bowl of chicken and mix thoroughly using your hands and leave for at least 30 minutes so that the marinade can infuse the chicken with it’s wonderful flavours.
3. Firmly cover the bowl with foil and place into a large bamboo steamer (you can also use a steam oven if you do not have a bamboo steamer – both work equally well).
4. Place the bamboo steamer on a rack over a pot/wok of rapidly boiling water – you will need to place a couple of inches of water into the pot. Put the lid on and steam the chicken for 40 minutes. You will need to turn the chicken once during cooking so be careful when removing the lid and foil as the steam will be very hot. To check the chicken is cooked sufficiently make a small incision into the flesh to see that it is fully cooked and not pink! If it is not quite done, continue to steam for a further few minutes. If you cook with a smaller amount of meat – 350g – steam for 25 minutes.
5. Carefully remove the bowl from the steamer and place the chicken onto plates, or a warmed central plate and sprinkle with ground white pepper and spring onions. Serve with rice.