This is US Style Chinese sesame chicken! You’re going to love it.
One of my must order items at Chinese restaurants and takeaways while growing up in California was sesame chicken.
It’s probably one of the first recipes I learned to cook at home too. Over the years I have changed the recipe but this is still pretty close to how I have made it since I was about 12. If you want the US Chinese food restaurant experience at home, this sesame chicken recipe is one you’ve got to try.
About this recipe…
I developed this sesame chicken as a one pot (or one wok) recipe. The wok is used to fry the chicken and also finish off the sesame chicken just before serving.
Don’t waste that oil though!
Reusing the sesame chicken cooking oil
You can use it more than once. After frying the chicken I strain it into another container for future use.
For all fried chicken recipes, you need a neutral oil that has a high smoking point. Each time you reuse the cooking oil, the smoking point temperature will decrease so this is important to keep in mind.
If the smoking point of your oil decreases substantially or the oil begins to have a bad aroma, it’s time to throw it out.
At home, I could cook up sesame chicken at least three different times without having to use new oil but again, let your nose and eyes decide whether your oil is suitable for purpose.
Frying the battered chicken…
If frying the battered chicken in a wok, simply fill your wok about one third full with oil and bring the oil up to 175c/350f. If you don’t have an oil thermometer, simply place a chop stick in the oil. If you see loads of bubbles around it, your oil should be fine.
Start by adding just a few pieces of your battered chicken to ensure the temperature is right. The chicken should sizzle and fry nicely without turning dark too quickly.
Remember, it is best to fry the chicken for this sesame chicken in batches. Add too much at one time and the temperature of the oil will cool down and your chicken will be soggy and oily instead of crispy.
There are quite a lot of ingredients in this sesame chicken. So it’s a good idea to get them all prepared before starting.
This can be done a couple of days ahead of cooking. Even the initial frying of the chicken can be done a day or so before serving.
It’s best to fry the chicken just before finishing the sesame chicken but if needs must, fry it and take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before finishing off in the wok.
The chicken will heat up quickly in the hot wok.
Most of the ingredients required for sesame chicken are easily found at any supermarket. Chinese chicken powder isn’t but it really isn’t necessary.
Chinese chicken powder usually comes in the form of a stock cube and is available at Chinese and other Asian grocers. It does contain MSG which many people don’t like using.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with it. It gives US style sesame chicken the flavour you would expect at a good Chinese takeaway. If you do decide to leave it out, I promise you will still love this sesame chicken recipe.
Step by step
Why this sesame chicken recipe will get you amazing results…
I grew up in California and know my sesame chicken! This Chinese chicken recipe is hugely popular all over the US and Chinese takeaways.
The thing is, I have always loved to cook. In my university years, I didn’t have the money to go out and get a sesame chicken takeaway as often as I would have liked.
So I experimented with my dorm roommates often, browsed many of the most popular Chinese cookbooks at the time, and we came up with this sesame chicken recipe that tastes just like the sesame chicken you find at the best US Chinese restaurants.
The crispy sesame chicken is addictive…
You might find it very difficult not to snack at this crispy sesame chicken as you cook.
It is so good, so you will need to work really hard to keep your hands off it! But then tasting as you go is also a good thing if you want to get the flavours just right.
Just keep an eye on it as I know from experience, others in the room might want to steel some of your delicious crispy chicken when you’re not looking.
Useful Equipment for sesame chicken…
The following cooking equipment will come in handy but not all are essential. Just make do with what you have if you want to make this sesame chicken recipe now.
- A good wok: I like to use a carbon steel wok when cooking Chinese and other Asian recipes. You will find it much easier to prepare sesame chicken with one. Don’t let that stop you if you don’t have one. A good frying pan will do the job fine.
- A good chefs knife: A sharp knife will come in handy for whatever you happen to be cooking. Slicing the chicken and vegetables for this sesame chicken will be much easier if you have one. I recommend investing it one good quality chefs knife rather than purchasing a set of knives.
- A cutting board: This is of course obvious but it is really nice to have a good, sturdy chopping board for cooking.
- Wooden chopsticks or spatula: Wooden chopsticks aren’t only useful for eating sesame chicken! You can use them or another wooden object such as a spatula or spoon to test the heat of the oil. An oil thermometer is best, but failing that, you can use a wooden chopstick to test the oil heat. If thousands of little bubbles form around the chopstick immediately on contact with the oil, you’re oil is hot enough to cook.
- A measuring jug: This will come in useful for measuring the sauce ingredients and also to store the prepared sauce before pouring it into the wok.
If you like this sesame chicken recipe, you might like to try some of these too…
- 500g (1 ¼ lb) skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces
- Oil for deep frying
- MARINADE INGREDIENTS
- 1 large egg white
- 1 tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp cornflour (corn starch)
- FOR THE DRY INGREDIENTS
- 130g (1 cup) cornflour (corn starch)
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- FOR THE SAUCE
- 2 tbsp rapeseed (canola) oil or peanut oil
- 2 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp spring onion (scallion), finely chopped
- 3 tbsp light soy sauce
- 3 tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp cornflour (corn starch)
- 1 tbsp distilled white vinegar
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp Chinese chicken powder (OPTIONAL) see note below
- 3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- Whisk the marinade ingredients in a bowl until think and smooth and then add the chicken pieces. Mix well to combine and allow to marinate for 30 minutes to 24 hours. The longer the better.
- Mix the dry ingredients together on a large plate and set aside.
- When ready to fry the chicken, heat about 750ml (3 cups) of oil in your wok or simply fill it 1/3 full. No more! Bring to 175c/350f. If you don't have an oil thermometer, your oil is hot enough when a piece of the bread sizzles immediately on contact.
- Now dredge the chicken pieces in the prepared cornflour (corn starch) mixture and shake any excess off. Cooking in batches, cook the chicken until crispy in the hot oil. About 2 – 3 minutes will be enough. Transfer to paper towels to soak up any excess oil. Set aside.
- To make the sauce, Discard or transfer the oil to a container to use when you fry next. Heat your wok over high heat until hot enough to dissolve a bead of water immediately on contact. Stir in the oil and swirl it around to coat the surface of the wok and then add the chopped garlic, ginger and spring onions (scallions).
- Fry for about 30 seconds and the stir in the soy sauce and Chinese rice wine.
Reduce the heat to medium and then while simmering add the honey and brown sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved into the sauce.
- Combine the vinegar and cornflour (corn starch) in a small bowl until you have a milking slurry and stir this into the sauce to thick and give the sauce its characteristic shine. Stir in the sesame oil and Chinese chicken powder if using.
- Add the fried chicken pieces to coat with the sauce. Garnish with spring onions (scallions) and serve over white rice.
I hope you enjoy this sesame chicken recipe. If you do try it, please eave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.