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  • Lee Lum’s Famous Lemon Chicken
  • Lee Lum’s Famous Lemon Chicken
  • Lee Lum’s Famous Lemon Chicken
  • Lee Lum’s Famous Lemon Chicken

Lee Lum’s Famous Lemon Chicken

Food | November 07, 2017 | Nik Manojlovich
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A legendary recipe that’s sure to please – LEE LUM’S FAMOUS LEMON CHICKEN is a mouthwatering main you’ll prepare again and again!

I first heard about this famous main course years ago, and often make it now when I want to serve a crowdpleaser.

This recipe is often referenced by foodies when they speak of the halcyon days of New York City in the 70s. “In the know” gastronomes would begin their weekend enjoying this dish at the now-defunct Pearl’s Restaurant, which was located on West 48th St. After feasting on a platter of LEE LUM’S FAMOUS LEMON CHICKEN, they’d head over for post-dinner merriment at Studio 54. I wish I could have experienced such an evening in person.

Instead, we’re left with a recipe so popular that the New York Times’ Craig Claiborne made it his mission to figure how to best recreate it. Here are four minor suggestions for preparing this classic recipe at home:

CHICKEN – The recipe calls for marinading the chicken in a mix of toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, salt, and gin or vodka for 30 minutes. In my experience, the chicken is more flavourful if left to marinade longer than that – I suggest 3 hours.

WATER CHESTNUT FLOUR – This elusive ingredient is essential in ensuring that the chicken goes to table tender yet still crispy. You’ll be able to purchase it at an Asian grocery store. Don’t be surprised by the appearance of this gluten-free flour – it resembles a cross between cornstarch and kitty litter, yet turns a beautiful golden brown when fried.

LEMON EXTRACT – I remember how excited and pleased I was the first time I prepared this recipe, and if there’s one ingredient I think makes the finished main so fantastic, it’s this. You’ll find lemon extract at a gourmet food store, or call your favourite health food store as there’s a good chance they will carry it.

VEGETABLES – One of the last steps in this recipe is adding the fresh vegetables to the lemon sauce before stirring in the lemon extract. I find the dish is more memorable and flavourful when the veggies are still slightly crispy, so stir them in and add the extract right before you spoon the sauce onto the bed of lettuce and chicken – you won’t be disappointed.

Finally, a huge thank you to the New York Times who first published this recipe. I have made one small adjustment: I removed the addition of 1 teaspoon of monosodium glutamate from the preparation of the sauce. Hope you don’t mind!

Looking for a delicious main course sure to make your next dinner party the talk of the town? Serve LEE LUM’S FAMOUS LEMON CHICKEN!


2 Responses to “Lee Lum’s Famous Lemon Chicken”

  1. Steve McCart says:

    Made this dish…Outstanding..Bit of work, but worth it….

    • Nik Manojlovich says:

      Hi Steve… I know right?! But, I agree – first time I made it I was over-the-moon, second time was easier, now I make it all the time! Thanks for writing in! N


Ingredients & Amounts

  • For the chicken:
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon of premium gin
  • 3 egg whites, beaten until frothy
  • 1 cup of water chestnut flour or powder
  • about 1 cup of peanut or salad oil for frying
  • For the sauce:
  • ¾ cup of granulated sugar
  • ½ cup of white vinegar
  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
  • juice and zest of 1 large lemon
  • 3 small carrots, cut in julienne strips
  • ½ large green pepper, cut in julienne strips
  • 3 scallions, trimmed, cut in julienne strips
  • ½ cup of pineapple, shredded
  • 1 ounce of pure lemon extract
  • For serving:
  • ¼ head of iceberg lettuce, finely shredded


  1. To make the chicken: place chicken in a medium-sized bowl. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and gin, and pour over chicken. Toss to coat, and let sit for at least 30 minutes, or if time permits, up to 3 hours.
  2. Drain chicken and discard marinade. Add chicken pieces to beaten egg whites, and toss to coat. Pour water chestnut flour on a plate and dredge chicken.
  3. Preheat oven to 400°F. Pour peanut oil in skillet one-half inch in depth, and heat to 350°F. Add chicken in batches. Brown one side, turn and brown the other. Drain. Transfer fried chicken to a wire rack sitting on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or, until fully cooked.
  4. To make the sauce: place chicken stock, vinegar, sugar and cornstarch in a skillet and heat on medium-high until thick and bubbling. Add lemon juice and zest in pan.
  5. Remove chicken from oven and cut into one-inch crosswise slices. Place on top of lettuce on a serving platter.
  6. Add vegetables and pineapple to sauce and stir. Remove from heat and stir in extract. Pour over chicken and serve immediately.

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Nik Manojlovich

Nik is the creator, host and brains behind Weekend at the Cottage. He loves sharing his wisdom and experience about the things that interest him most.



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