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Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Chinese
Servings 4 people


For the Marination

  • 1 kg chicken breast cut into 3 to 4 cm cubes
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large cloves of garlic grated finely (about 1½ tsp paste)
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tbsp cornflour

For the Sticky Sauce:

  • ¼ cup honey or golden syrup 4 tbsp/60 ml
  • ¼ cup dark muscovado sugar
  • ¼ cup light soy sauce
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • ½ - 1 tsp crushed chilli flakes optional
  • 1 - 3 tsp rice vinegar or lemon juice
  • 2 - 4 tsp Chinese toasted sesame oil

For Frying the Chicken

  • ¾ to 1 cup cornflour
  • flavourless oil for frying

For Garnish

  • 1.5 tbsp toasted white sesame seeds
  • chopped spring onions


Step 1: The Marination

  • Mix all the ingredients listed under marination until well combined and set aside for half an hour.

Step 2: The Frying

  • Place a heavy, preferably cast iron pan on high heat and add ¼ to ½ a cup oil (I used ½ a cup) - I know this is still not a small amount, but I promise you, most of it will ooze out during the second stage of cooking. Set a large metal sieve over a bowl in such a manner that the sieve is resting well above the bottom of the bowl.
  • In a large bowl, add ½ a cup cornflour, then add 6 to 8 pieces of the marinated chicken. Toss each piece around in the cornstarch, pressing down a bit so that the cornflour adheres to the chicken in lumps.
  • When the oil is hot (about 180 - 190 ° C), take a piece of chicken, shake off the excess flour and add to the oil. It should sizzle immediately. If the oil is ready, add in a few more pieces of the chicken, remembering to shake off excess flour. Do not to crowd the pan - the chicken pieces also should have enough room around them so that they don't stick to each other.
  • In about 2 minutes, check the underside of the chicken pieces. When you see the batter setting and the colour changing to a pale yellow, flip the chicken pieces over. Fry for another minute or so until the chicken looks evenly coloured all over. Remember, we're NOT cooking the chicken completely at this stage. Remove the pieces to the sieve. Before adding the next batch, fish out as much debris from the oil as possible. Repeat with all the chicken pieces and set aside. Remember to maintain the temperature with each batch, adjusting it to high or low as required.

Step 3: The Sauce

  • Make the sauce: In a wok or frying pan large enough to accommodate all the pieces of chicken later and with room enough for mixing well, combine the honey, sugar, soy sauce, ketchup, water, cornstarch and crushed chillies, if using. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thick and glossy. Taste and add lemon juice or vinegar bit by bit to balance the flavours to your preference. Repeat with the sesame oil - its strength varies from brand to brand, so err on the side of caution. Add until you're happy with the sesame flavour in the sauce - it should neither be overpowering nor too delicate. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Step 4: The Second 'Frying'

  • Preheat your oven/air-fryer to 200°C. If using the air fryer, place a few pieces of the chicken in the basket without crowding them and cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked and crisp. Make sure you don't overcook for this will make the chicken tough & dry. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Look at the oil left over under the basket after two batches in the photo below.
  • If using the oven, line a large baking sheet with foil, then place a rack over it. Carefully place the chicken pieces on the rack without overcrowding. This arrangement will allow air to circulate around the pieces, not only making them crisp but also drawing out some of the oil from them, which will drip onto the foil below. Again, cook until the chicken is done and is crispy on the outside.

Step 5: The Assembly

  • Once all the chicken is done, add the pieces to the waiting sauce. You don't need to turn on the heat unless the sauce has cooled too much, in which case, warm the sauce, stirring, then turn off the heat and add the chicken. Mix gently, making sure all the chicken is coated with the sauce.
  • Serve garnished with the sesame seeds and spring onions. Steamed jasmine rice makes the best accompaniment.
Keyword air-fried, chicken, savoury, sesame, sour, sticky, sweet