Chinese Lemon Chicken is the name used to describe a tasty, zesty, sweet and citrus flavoured preparation which, like most varieties of Chinese chicken dishes, has the chicken first cut into bite-sized or smaller chunks, battered, and then ultimately deep fried and coated with a sweet-lemon sauce. It has a unique taste different from other Chinese dishes because there is an inherent sweetness and at the same time there is an unmistakable citrus tang to the dish which many people enjoy.
Ingredients and Preparation
Boneless, skinless chunky chicken pieces, lemon, sugar, chicken broth, eggs, soy sauce, white pepper and corn starch are the major ingredients.
The chicken pieces are first marinated in some dark soy sauce, salt and pepper. Batter is prepared using eggs, corn starch, a bit of baking powder and a pinch of white pepper powder. The chicken pieces are coated in the batter and deep fried till well done and golden brown in colour. It is placed on paper towels to remove surface oil.
A thick lemony sauce is created by mixing together sugar, corn starch, lemon juice, and some salt. To some heated oil in a wok, this sauce is added and stirred well till thick consistency is achieved. Some slices of fresh lemon are dropped into this sauce.
The lemon slices are removed from the sauce before it is poured over the fried chicken and mixed together. This Chinese Lemon chicken tastes best with plain steamed rice which helps to brings out the flavours of the dish or with noodles.
Nutritive Value of Lemon Chicken
A serving size of 1 cup provides-
• Total calorie content of 650 calories of which calories from fat are 334.
• Total fat is 37.08 g of which saturated fat is 9.5 g, polyunsaturated fat is 9.29 g and monounsaturated fat is 15. 12g. Cholesterol content is 169 mg.
• Sodium content is 571.7 mg and potassium is 446 mg.
• Total carbohydrate is 34.52 g of which dietary fibre accounts for 1.29 g and sugar 4.08 g
• Protein value is 45.31 g.
• The estimated % daily values are Vitamin C 14%, Iron 18% and calcium 6 %.
Evidently this is a high calorie, high fat, high protein dish but with some modifications it may be possible to cut back on the fat and calories, thereby making it suitable for consumption by even Diabetics and obese individuals as well as those who have cholesterol concerns.
1. Grilling the chicken in olive oil after marinating in lemon juice, scallions, salt and pepper may help cut down drastically on the calories that the process of batter frying piles on to the dish.
2. For a Diabetic the sugar maybe replaced with measured amounts of the natural sweetener Stevia.
3. From the health perspective it would be best if sugar is completely avoided and honey, with its rich antioxidant value be used instead in preparing this dish even for healthy individuals. Similarly corn starch replaced by some whole wheat flour would not alter the taste but add fibre and B-vitamins that help regulate metabolic processes within the body. This way, refined ingredients are eliminated.
4. A vegetarian can opt for cubed low fat cottage cheese instead of chicken and similarly a vegan can use silken tofu with its soft and creamy melt in the mouth texture which can easily imbibe the lemony flavour. Tofu is a low-fat, high protein, phytoestrogen source that adds great value to this dish owing to its multiple health benefits.
5. Another interesting and nutritious innovation would be the use of orange juice to prepare the sauce instead of lemon juice. With its natural sweetness, much lesser quantities of sugar may suffice to deliver the subtle sweetness needed in this dish.