Steamed Lemon Chicken 鶏のレモン蒸し

japanese cake

Steamed Lemon Chicken 鶏のレモン蒸し


I am not sure if this dish really belongs to Izakaya food but we often eat this dish over rice as the last item at our home Izakaya. The last dish you order in Izakaya is generally a starch, a rice or noodle dish and this dish could be that rice dish. It is very healthy, mild, refreshing, and comforting. The original recipe was from one of the Japanese cook books (Now, I do not remember which one this was). I have modified it substantially during the years. It is rather simple and you could prepare the dish one or two days ahead up to the point just before it is cooked and keep it in the refrigerator. Sake, lemon, and salt appear to preserve chicken meat but acid may turn the meat white after 2 days. Although, it is best when freshly made, this dish will re-heat very nicely in a microwave oven.

I use a skinless, boneless chicken breast. I cut the breast into bite size pieces cutting obliquely across the grain of the meat そぎぎり. (I remove the tenders and use then for another dish.) The thickness (about a quarter inch or less) and size (bite size) of the chicken should be uniform so that all pieces cook evenly. Cut fresh Shiitake mushrooms (after removing the stems) in a similar manner. One mushroom should be cut into two or three pieces but not too small. I like the size of mushroom rather large to be more substantial. Grate the lemon zest using a micro-grater (this is my preferred method) or use your knife if you so prefer but the zest should be very finely chopped. Remove the remaining skin and pith (white part of the skin, because it imparts a bitter taste) from the lemon and thinly slice the meat of the lemon into thin round slices. (for the amount in the above picture, I used two halves of a chicken breast and one lemon). I remove the seeds from the lemon before adding it to other ingredients. If you do not like to bite into lemon slices in the dish, you could add the juice of lemon instead but you need to use zest for a bright lemony taste without being too sour. The amount of chicken, lemon, mushroom are arbitrary and to your liking. You can also add finely chopped scallion or garlic chive (both optional). Put everything in a bowl, add sake, salt, black or white pepper, a dash of dark sesame oil, and sprinkle potato starch and mix well (again, I just mixed these up by eyeballing but the most crucial part is the ratio of starch and liquid…too little starch, the sauce produced after steaming is too runny and too much you will have a glue (I suppose this can be precisely measured and mixed in a measuring cup and then poured over to the chicken-shiitake mixture (I may try this method to make this dish more reproducible. Sorry but I am not a precise cook). I season lightly here since I usually add “Ponzu Shoyu” (recipe is in Mark’s book p145 or use a commercial one in a bottle) just before serving. Mix well and place them in a serving bowl like one seen here.  The bowl must fit inside your steamer. I cook this in a high steam for 10 minutes and then mix. Continue steaming another 10 minutes or meat becomes opaque and the sauce is set in nice consistency. Just 5 minutes before finishing, I add any greens available. I used snow peas this time but I also use broccoli or green beans (Green beans takes a bit longer to cook. You can cook these separately for the better control of doneness). Serve over cooked rice. I use a little bit of “ponzu shoyu” or if it is sour enough just soy sauce on the top to add fresh taste but you might want to taste the dish before adding these additional seasonings. If you are the chopsticks Jedi, use chopsticks, otherwise a spoon (for Japanese guests) or fork (for Westerner guests) might be better.

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