Why citrus juice? The tang is different. The aroma is better. And that aroma is heightened even more with the addition of a few pinches of grated lime and lemon zest.
Why chicken broth? Well, doesn’t that taste better than water? Of course, there’s no harm in using pork, beef or vegetable broth. But this is a chicken dish, pork or beef broth might be too overwhelming while vegetable broth might give the dish a different final flavor, so, chicken broth.
I’m pretty sure that there is no truth to the saying that butter makes everything better. Or maybe that’s cream. Or cheese. Or chocolate. Whatever. Butter may not make everything better but it does add a creamy richness to sweet sour sauce.
The recipe is pretty simple. Season, flour and fry chicken fillets, cut into strips and arrange on a plate. Make the sauce with chicken broth, lemon and lime juices and zests, fish sauce, sugar and starch. Off the heat, drop in dollops of chilled butter and stir into the hot sauce until blended. Pour over the chicken and garnish.
If you’re wondering whether the lime and lemon slices are merely ornamental, let me assure you that they are not.
We all have our definition of the perfect sweet sour sauce. Some like it sweeter and others prefer it more sour. On the day I cooked this dish, I wanted it more sweet than sour. The tanginess of citrus juice just seems to pop more with added sugar. I just figured that if my husband and daughters found the sauce too sweet, they could simply squeeze the lime and lemon slices on their plates for added tartness.
Why do the skin of the lime slices look bumpy? Because they’re kaffir limes. The more politically correct term is makrut, according to some food writers. But kaffir (not to be confused with kefir) is easier to pronounce than makrut, so… We have a tree. Three trees now, I think. For more about the fruit, see the linked post below.
Fried chicken with buttery sweet sour sauce
- 8 chicken thigh fillets
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- cooking oil for frying
- juice of two limes
- juice of a lemon half
- 1 pinch grated lime zest
- 1 pinch grated lemon zest
- ½ cup chicken bone broth
- sugar to taste
- fish sauce to taste
- 1 teaspoon tapioca starch or corn or potato starch
- 2 tablespoons butter chilled and cut into small cubes
- lemon and lime slices to garnish
- Sprinkle both sides of each chicken thigh fillet with salt and pepper.
- Place in a resealable bag, add the flour, seal the bag and shake to coat each fillet well with flour.
- Heat enough cooking oil in a large frying pan to reach a depth of one inch.
- Lay the chicken fillets in the hot oil in a single layer and cook at 350F for three to four minutes per side depending on the thickness of the fillets.
- Scoop out the fried chicken fillets and move to a chopping board.
- In a small sauce pan, off the heat, mix together the lime juice, lemon juice, zests, chicken broth and about two tablespoons sugar. Taste. Add fish sauce to balance the saltiness and more sugar if the mixture is still too tart. Keep adjusting until you get the balance that you like. Stir the starch into the sauce.
- Cook the sauce over medium heat, stirring often, until thickened and clear. Lower the heat and cook, covered, for another two to three minutes to get rid of any starchy taste.
- Off the heat, drop the cubes of butter into the hot sauce. Stir gently until the butter is melted and fully incorporated into the sauce.
- Cut the fried chicken fillets into strips and arrange on a serving platter.
- Garnish with lime and lemon slices.
- Pour in the sauce.
- Serve the lemon lime butter chicken at once.