Chinese takeout chicken (less the grease/guilt)

It’s hard to resist the cheerfully sweet, garlicky appeal of those fried nuggets of chicken lacquered in shiny amber sauce sold in Chinese-American eateries around the country under names like “General Tso’s” or “sesame.” This smart, simple recipe for “mall chicken” from Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes is a wholesome version of this food court favorite, without the frying or the MSG.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, or a mix
  • Kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon, more or less)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, for topping

Preparation

  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Mix the sauce in a bowl: honey, ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar and garlic. Set aside.
  3. Rinse and pat dry chicken. Trim off excess fat or stray bone. Cut chicken into 1″ pieces and place in a bowl. Season with a bit of salt and dust with cornstarch, mixing to coat the pieces.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Working in batches, sear the chicken on both sides until a light crust forms on the surface (the chicken will not be cooked through). Add a bit more oil between batches if necessary. Transfer the chicken to a baking dish (a 9″x13″ dish works fine for 2 pounds of chicken).
  5. Pour the sauce over the chicken and mix to coat the pieces. Bake until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is bubbling and thick, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

Notes

  • To spice things up, add dried chile pepper to the sauce. Chinese cooks would add whole dried chile peppers, maybe broken in half for added heat. But you can also simply add crushed red pepper flakes to taste.
  • Add fresh ginger, if you like – minced into sauce for a stronger flavor, or add a couple of slices into the sauce for milder flavor (remove before serving).

Here’s a link back to the post and pictures.