Why It 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.
- Adding vodka to the chicken coating inhibits gluten formation and leaves you with a crisper crust.
- Adding some of the marinade to the dry coating mixture makes more surface area which results in extra crunch.
I developed a great technique for perfecting General Tso’s crispy, battered chicken, which is easily transferred to make an amazing orange chicken, or this sesame chicken. Once you start with the General Tso's base, sesame chicken is even easier than orange chicken. The main difference is that sesame chicken tends to be a little sweeter (if you can imagine that) than General Tso's, with no heat, and a good shower of toasted sesame seeds is added to the sauce.
I make the sauce almost the exact same way I make my General Tso's sauce: sautéed garlic, ginger, and scallions deglazed with a sweet-tart mixture of soy, wine, vinegar, chicken stock, and sugar. I add a little extra sugar and sesame oil to the mix in this case, but otherwise, it's pretty much identical.
Once the chicken is tossed with the sauce, I pile it up in the authentic manner: with steamed broccoli florets and a shower of toasted sesame seeds.
This story was originally published under the column name "The Food Lab Redux."
For the Marinade:
1 egg white
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (see notes)
2 tablespoons 80-proof vodka
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch chunks (see notes)
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 notes)
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 cornstarch
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
2 quarts peanut, canola, or vegetable oil for deep frying
Steamed white rice and steamed broccoli for serving
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 cornstarch to the large bowl and whisk to combine. Add chicken to large bowl and turn with fingers to coat thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
For the Dry Coat: Combine flour, cornstarch, 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.
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.
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 up 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.
To Finish: Heat 1 1/2 quarts peanut, vegetable, or canola oil in a large wok or Dutch oven to 350°F (177°C) and adjust flame to maintain temperature.
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.
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 (163-190°C), until chicken is cooked through and very crispy, about 4 minutes. Transfer chicken to a paper towel-lined bowl to drain.
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.
Wok or Dutch oven for deep frying
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.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 20g||26%|
|Saturated Fat 3g||16%|
|Total Carbohydrate 54g||20%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||4%|
|Total Sugars 11g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||2%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|