The Best Chinese Sesame Chicken

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Crispy chunks of deep-fried battered chicken in a sweet, sour, and savory glaze packed with sesame flavor. The Chinese take-out classic, made in your own kitchen.

Why this recipe works:

  • A balanced sauce has plenty of vinegary kick to balance out the cloying sweetness that most restaurant versions have.
  • Cooking the aromatics for the sauce at a lower temperature lets their flavors develop without having to superheat your wok or skillet.
  • We add vodka to our chicken coating. Its higher volatility and ability to inhibit gluten formation leaves you with a superior crisp crust.
  • Adding some of our marinade to our dry coating mixture creates little nuggets of coating that cling to the chicken pieces, adding more surface area for extra crunch.

Note: Shaoxing wine can be found in most Asian markets. If unavailable, dry sherry can be used in its place. If you can't find boneless skinless chicken thighs, you can debone them yourself using this guide.

The Best Chinese Sesame Chicken

The recipe box is closed. Read about why and how to export your data »

About This Recipe

Yield:Serves 4 to 6
Active time:45 minutes
Total time:1 hour
Special equipment:Wok or Dutch oven for deep frying
This recipe appears in: The Food Lab Redux: How to Make Orange and Sesame Chicken at Home
Rated:

Ingredients

  • For the Marinade:
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (see note above)
  • 2 tablespoons 80-proof vodka
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch chunks (see note above)
  • For the Dry Coating:
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • For the Sauce:
  • 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (see note above)
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons roasted sesame seed oil
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 teaspoons peanut, vegetable, or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger (about one 1-inch piece)
  • 2 teaspoons minced scallion bottoms (about 1 scallion)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • To Finish:
  • 2 quarts of peanut, canola, or vegetable oil for deep frying
  • Steamed white rice and steamed broccoli for serving

Procedures

  1. 1

    For the Marinade: Beat egg whites in a large bowl until broken down and lightly foamy. Add soy sauce, wine, and vodka and whisk to combine. Set aside half of marinade in a small bowl. Add baking soda and corn starch to the large bowl and whisk to combine. Add chicken tp large bowl and turn with fingers to coat thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

  2. 2

    For the Dry Coat: Combine flour, corn starch, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Whisk until homogenous. Add reserved marinade and whisk until mixture has coarse, mealy clumps. Set aside.

  3. 3

    For the Sauce: Combine soy sauce, wine, vinegar, chicken stock, sugar, sesame seed oil, and cornstarch in a small bowl and stir with a fork until cornstarch is dissolved and no lumps remain. Set aside.

  4. 4

    Combine oil, garlic, ginger, and minced scallions in a large skillet and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are aromatic and soft, but not browned, about 3 minutes. Stir sauce mixture and add to skillet, making sure to scrape out any sugar or starch that has sunk to the bottom. Cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens, about 1 minute. Add half of sesame seeds. Transfer sauce to a bowl to stop cooking, but don't wipe out skillet.

  5. 5

    To Finish: Heat 1 1/2 quarts peanut, vegetable, or canola oil in a large wok or Dutch oven to 350°F and adjust flame to maintain temperature.

  6. 6

    Working one piece at a time, transfer chicken from marinade to dry coat mixture, tossing in between each addition to coat chicken. When all chicken is added to dry coat, toss with hands, pressing dry mixture onto chicken so it adheres, and making sure that every piece is coated thoroughly.

  7. 7

    Lift chicken one piece at a time, shake off excess coating, and carefully lower into hot oil (do not drop it). Once all chicken is added, cook, agitating with long chopsticks or a metal spider, and adjusting flame to maintain a temperature of 325 to 375°F, until chicken is cooked through and very crispy, about 4 minutes. Transfer chicken to a paper towel-lined bowl to drain.

  8. 8

    Add chicken to empty skillet and return sauce to skillet. Toss chicken, folding it with a rubber spatula until all pieces are thoroughly coated. Sprinkle with remaining sesame seeds and serve immediately with white rice and steamed broccoli.

Comments

Add a rating with your comment:

Comments can take up to a minute to appear - please be patient!

Previewing your comment: