Sesame chicken looks similar to General Tso’s chicken but it is sweet rather than spicy. It gets its name from the seeds sprinkled on the dish after cooking.
To get the best flavor and aroma from the sesame seeds, they need to be toasted. You can use white, brown, black or a combination of one or all of them. Just spread the seeds in an oil-free pan over medium heat with occasional tossing. When the sesame seeds appear glossy (heat coaxes out the oil), turn off the heat and transfer them to a small plate to stop the cooking.
The chicken consists of fillets cut into bite-size pieces and undergoes what is popularly called “velveting”. Don’t be intimidated. It just means marinating the chicken with egg (only the white is used here), rice wine, seasonings and starch. The combination of egg, wine and starch does things to the meat which makes it super moist and springy.
Chicken thigh fillets or breast fillets? Normally, I’d say thighs. But since there’s velveting involved here, it’s quite alright to use breast meat.
This sesame chicken sauce has hoisin sauce for a richer color and flavor. And that’s what differentiates it from others. Hoisin sauce takes the place of half a dozen ingredients, and the substitution gives the dish a more authentic Asian flavor.
Chicken and marinade
- ½ kilogram chicken fillets (skinless breast meat was used here)
- 1 egg white
- 1 tablespoon Chinese soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
- 2 tablespoons potato starch or corn starch
To cook the chicken
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon sesame seed oil
- 1 teaspoon grated garlic
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons Chinese soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
Marinate the chicken
- Wipe the chicken fillets dry with paper towels and cut into half-inch strips.
- Whisk the egg white until foamy.
- Place the chicken in a bowl, pour in the egg white and mix well.
- Stir together the soy sauce, oyster sauce, Shaoxing rice wine and sesame seed oil. Add the starch and mix until incorporated.
- Add the sauce to the chicken, mix well, cover the bowl and marinate in the fridge for at least two hours.
Deep-fry the chicken
- In a wok or fryer, heat enough cooking oil to reach a depth of at least three inches.
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, starch and salt.
- Stir the chicken to separate the pieces then dredge each piece in the flour mixture.
- Drop the floured chicken one by one in the hot oil. Fry the chicken strips (in batches if your frying pan or wok is not very large) over very high heat for about four minutes.
- Transfer the fried chicken fillets to a rack and make the sauce.
- In a clean oil-free pan, toast the sesame seeds. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Set the heat to low and, in the same pan, pour in the sesame seed oil and cook the garlic and ginger gently for about a minute.
- Turn up the heat to high. Pour in the soy sauce, rice vinegar and Hoisin sauce, and cook until bubbly.
Finish the sesame chicken
- Add the fried chicken fillets to the sauce in the pan.
- Sprinkle in the toasted sesame seeds.
- Cook, tossing thoroughly, until each piece of chicken is smeared with sauce and dotted with sesame seeds
- Serve over rice to make a one bowl meal.