Recipe: Orange-lemon Chicken

Orange-lemon chicken

My friends are always bugging me for “quick n’ easy” recipes. Then I give them a stir-fried chicken recipe, for instance, and they come back to me and say, “Hey, that chicken took me half an hour to chop, and the two tablespoons of garlic was a pain to mince.” So I’ll show them how I mince garlic in 10 seconds with my Chinese cleaver, and they say, “if we tried that, we’d lose our fingers”. What is a chef to do? Tell them to watch more Yan Can Cook, that’s what! See how the man handles his cleaver.

Having said that, I will offer this recipe with the caveat that it is quick n’ easy to make, but if you’re slow at wielding your knife, the preparation work may slow you down. But hey, it’s a nice dish that’s a change from the hot n’ spicy Thai stir-fries I’m so fond of. I know Swati wants this recipe really bad after she had dinner at Shiok.

This dish combines two citrus flavours – orange and lemon – with chicken breasts and just a touch of chilli that brings out the full flavours of the orange and lemon. It goes well with rice, or fried rice if you prefer. Wait, the chilli-basil fried rice recipe I gave earlier may be a good companion to this too. (Beware: it will be a strongly-flavoured meal.)


What you need

Boneless skinless chicken breasts – 150 gm

Peanut (groundnut) oil – 2 tbsp

Garlic – chopped – 2 tsp

Ginger – chopped – 2 tsp

Orange juice – 4 tbsp

Lemon juice (lemon, not lime) – 2 tbsp

Orange rind (zest) – 2 tsp

Lemon rind – 1 tsp

Light soy sauce – 2 tsp

Sugar – 1 tsp

Red chilli paste – 1/2 to 1 tsp (depending on your taste)

Spring onions (scallions) – chopped – 1 tbsp

Chicken stock or water – 4 tbsp (1/4 cup)

Sesame oil – 1/2 tsp

Cornflour (cornstarch) and water mixture – 2 tsp cornstarch to which 1 tbsp cold water has been added and mixed well.

How to make it

Cut the chicken breasts into thin strips. Mince both the orange and lemon rind.

Heat a wok till it’s nice and hot. Add the peanut oil and swirl it around the surface. 10 seconds later, add the ginger and garlic.

When the ginger and garlic turn fragrant, add the chicken strips. Wait one minute for the chicken to sear, flip the pieces with a spatula and let the other side sear for one more minute.

Now add all the other ingredients except the spring onions and the cornflour mixture. Bring it to a boil, simmer for another 2 minutes, then stir in the cornflour slurry and mix well. The sauce should thicken in about 10 seconds. Taste for the flavour balance, adding either sugar (more sweetness), orange/lemon juice (more tartness), or light soy sauce (more saltiness) as required.

Quickly add the spring onions, stir once, and serve on to a warm plate.

Chef’s notes

This dish can also be served as a cold starter. Just make it less saucy.

If you’re living in a tropical country and all you can find is round limes instead of lemons, cut the quantity of juice by half so that you don’t accidentally kill the dish. :)

If the orange juice you’ve got is a sweetened variety (quite common in India), leave the sugar out and make the dish. Add more sugar only if the dish needs it.

The chilli paste actually intensifies some of  the flavours in this dish. It’s not there to make it “spicy’. Trust me on this one.

Light Soy sauce is one ingredient whose saltiness can vary a lot. Check your brand’s saltiness and then adjust. If in doubt, add less. You can always add more later if needed.

My recipe has a decidedly gingery background taste to it. If that puts you off, cut the ginger by half and make it.

28 Replies to “Recipe: Orange-lemon Chicken”

  1. do you mean to say that french cuisine is flavorless?

  2. In the U.S., most grocery stores sell a lot of pre-sliced and pre-cut stuff, so it’s great for someone who doesn’t have the time to prep their food. For instance, they can get a whole jar of garlic that had already been minced.
    The same is true for food distributors who supply to restaurants. We visited a local supplier the other day, and they had a very wide selection of vegetables. One of their service is supplying vegetables that have already been processed and prepped. We found out that one of the major Asian chain restaurants buy 80% of their vegetables already processed and prepped. Saves on labor costs. The restaurant chain does over $5.5 million in sales per restaurant, and they have over 100 across the U.S.

  3. Marion, I did use a wink smiley on that bit, so I wasn’t being dead serious. Hey, I’m a South-east Asian cook, so compared to the strong flavours there, French food is a bit on the “not so strongly flavoured” side. :)
    Dennis, that’s interesting to know, especially about the restaurant chain. Here in India, labour is much cheaper, and so it makes more sense for us to get people to do it.
    Also, food (especially vegetables)that’s already been processed and cut needs to be cooked quickly. Supermarket pre-cut stuff has probably been sitting there for a while, and in my opinion, will never have the flavour of veggies that are freshly cut.

  4. Yeah, I definately agree that it’s fresher if it’s not pre-cut. The supplier does vacuum pack the produce, but I still think it’s not quite the same.

  5. Madhu-
    What’s with the “Madhu-bashing” on AsianVegan.blogspot? I don’t recall reading anything on your website bashing thoer style, or was it your comments?? Now, that would give you fodder for your next post.

  6. Alex Murphy says:

    Mmmm… looks delicious

  7. sumanjit kaur tripathy says:

    Madhu , the dish looks just awesome and while reading the recipe could imagine how its going to taste……………..just WONDERFUL…….! ! ! It’s my kind of taste…..little sweet…little tangy….

  8. sumanjit kaur tripathy says:

    MADHU ,
    Finally tried the dish last nite…!! It was wonderful ! Though i didnt get the lovely orange colour , like the pic on this page . Maybe , because i used dark soya sauce ( Though i used half the amount ).

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. We cooked this with friends tonight and it was absolutely terrific. Made the basil fried rice, too, spicing it up with habanero peppers. Everybody loved it.
    Petra in Hamburg, Germany

  10. Hi,
    when i saw the pic of The Orange-Lemon Chicken,i knew the taste would be great!!I did cooked the same dish but still i felt something missing.I’m gonna try it.Thank you for sharing those recipes.Hopefully could get more recipes like Beriani Rice.Coz,i never got the best recipe in my town.

  11. Dear Madhu,
    I happened to come across this recipe by chance while surfing the net…very interesting i must say. I have a son (aged 11) who enjoys eating and cooking. trying to make him a little independent in the kitchen as i am always away on my busy schedule. Can you suggest simple dishes that can be prepared by children, especially with chicken. He can cook rice and fried rice. Thanks.

  12. Sounds so nummy, I can taste it bout now. Just throw a little pasta into the mix and that chicken might just jump out at you.

  13. Yummy! Looks fantastic and I can not wait to try to make it myself. regards.

  14. Hi, I’m American, but it seems to me that 150 gm chicken is a very small amount like 1/4 pound of chicken. Could you add the Americanized recipe version? I don’t mean to be politically incorrect. I’m just ignorant. Thanks. I’ve looked everywhere for a recipe and can’t wait to try this one.

  15. Madhu, This is my first visit to your blog. And this recipe is the one that made me read many of the entries in your blog. I like Malaysian and Singaporean food so very much (I’m an Indian, living in USA). But all attempts at making them so far have turned blah!
    I’m going to try your recipe for Orange-lemon Chicken and Chili-Basil fried rice soon.
    When we (me and my DH) come to Bangalore next time, I’ll visit your restaurant. Do you make the lovely roti-canai or roti-pratta there?

  16. What is the right way to cut boneless chicken ? Is it better to buy boneless chicken and then cut it. Or order chicken legs/breasts and cut it from the bone ? Any special knife required ?
    Madhu waiting for more posts here on this food site of yours. Although I’m also enjoying the ones on Mad Mans world especially the outsourcing one.
    We miss you, please post more.

  17. Terrific recipe.. Am wondering, if I should prepare it myself or first try it at your place…

  18. mrabnv ulxtehjp rtiyjgozl sahlo xlckm ykvf gitwm

  19. Man, I like your writing style….it’s like a conversation flowing rather than a boring narration of recepie telling like in any other website. Sounds very honest(the tips et all) and it gives that personal touch, as if you are really talking to us. Ofcourse, like everybody has acknowledged, your cooking style is also very good!!
    And, I am not very big on compliments and this is the first ever time I am writing anything like this :)….straight from the heart!!!

  20. dude…is that even french food? cuz im doin a report on french food and that pic looks good but idk if i should use it cuz idk if its french or japanese

  21. Tried ur recipe….it came out great….Chicken is one of my favorite dish….I enjoyed….My husband loved it….

  22. this looks really interesting!!
    my mom makes something very similar but without orange and soy sauce.
    what is the difference between lime and lemon?!
    used to think they are synonymous!
    googled it…but still confused. :(

  23. hey thanks a lot for sharing this awesome recipe…
    we made the dish last night at our girls hostel (the food here sucks!) and while it looked nothing like the picture, it tasted out of this world!!
    if i ever get to bangalore, i know where i want to have dinner and drinks…
    ure a peach to share this info…thanks again

  24. Orange-lemon Chicken is a Hot dish to cook.

  25. Yummy Let me try then I will reply with my best response :)

  26. Hay this is the first time i came to ur blog and was happy and sad immidiately. Sad coz u dont have a resto in Mumbai but the next time i visit Bangalore i’ll make sure i eat at ur place. Happy coz i got what i was looking for.
    I was looking for info on deveining prawns and then i saw this tempting chicken… my imagination started to fly and could immidiately feel the taste in mu mouth.
    Wish u luck

  27. Excuse me. We learn and grow and are transformed not so much by what we do but by why and how we do it.
    I am from Peru and also now’m speaking English, give please true I wrote the following sentence: “Stringer noted that they arrive up a need of their closing to their noble proposition joe.”
    Regards :P Finley.

  28. Hi Madhu
    I tried it for lunch today with fried tofu, and it was fantastic! Thanks for keeping this space alive with these wonderful recipes.

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