Steamed Lemon Chicken

Chinese Steamed Lemon Chicken

Family recipes are great, especially if they’re not from my own. Having said that, my food-obsessed relatives are sure to disown me, so I’m going to explain myself in case my grandmother finds this while googling my name in search of my Twitter account.

I’ll never get tired of the foods of my childhood and will always have a Ratatouille moment each time I have Pinakbet. The thing is, I’ve had such dishes so many times already and would rather have something completely new. It’s like having that first awkward bite of sushi and thinking, “Where have you been all my life?” Thinking that wasabi was some sort of minty candy, my first memories of sushi actually involved shooting white nostril heat and gushing tears, but you know what I mean.

Regardless of cultural provenance, other people’s family recipes will always be appealing to me because it’s often a confluence of several good things:

  • It will be easy to make
  • It will be easy to like
  • It will be affordable

Take this recipe for steamed lemon chicken, for instance. From Eileen Yin-fei Lo’s The Chinese Kitchen, my favorite thing about the book is the wide array of family recipes in addition to well-known regional Chinese classics. She points out that this specific preparation will not be found anywhere else, yet one look at the ingredient list and it seems instantly familiar and accessible.

recipe adapted from Eileen Yin-fei Lo’s The Chinese Kitchen

Steamed Lemon Chicken
Ling Mung Jing Gai

makes 4 servings

4 chicken leg quarters
kosher salt
1 lemon

For the marinade:

one-inch slice of fresh ginger, peeled
1 tablespoon Chinese white rice wine
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
a pinch of ground pepper
3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (optional)

For garnishing:

scallions, thinly sliced
lemons, thinly sliced


  • Cornstarch can turn into a gluey substance while in the steamer so I listed it as an optional ingredient. I can’t recommend adding it to the marinade.

Rub the chicken leg quarters with kosher salt. Rinse under cold running water then dry thoroughly with paper towels. Squeeze the lemon juice over chicken legs and set aside.

Grate or finely mince the fresh ginger. Press it through a fine strainer to extract the juice, about one teaspoon. In a bowl, add the ginger to the rest of the marinade ingredients and whisk until the salt and sugar are thoroughly dissolved. Let the chicken and marinade rest for at least 30 minutes.

Place the chicken legs in a steam-proof dish. Stir the marinade briefly before pouring over the chicken. Using the steaming implement of your choice, steam the chicken legs over high heat for about 30 minutes.

Lemon Chicken in Aluminum Steamer
Lemon chicken steaming in an aluminum steamer

To Serve:

Garnish with the sliced scallions and lemons. Serve with cooked rice.

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33 Responses to “Steamed Lemon Chicken”

  1. Fearless Kitchen says:

    This looks fantastic. My husband’s been going through this horrific Lemon Craving and I’ve been trying to find new ways of satisfying it – I’ll have to give this a shot!

  2. Mike says:

    This looks really good and has made me realize that I’ve never steamed (or much anything) chicken before. Sounds like something I need to experiment with!

    last blog post: Blueberry Rhubarb Cream Tart

  3. kat says:

    hmmm, I’ve never tried steaming chicken, something new to try

    last blog post: Sidetracked

  4. Kevin says:

    That lemon chicken looks really good! I am going to have to try steaming chicken.

    last blog post: Fried Calamari

  5. DebinHawaii says:

    The lemon chicken looks delicious as does the oolong tea ice cream. i just took a tea seminar and our last class was on oolongs. I’ll have to try this.

    By the way, i just tagged you for a meme on my blog. (Hope you don’t hate them and now me!)It was kind of a fun one to do.

    last blog post: I Have Been Tagged–My First Meme

  6. daphne says:

    I love the finally photo-what a lovely and refreshing idea.

    last blog post: Adventures of the Thosai and Chicken Curry

  7. [eatingclub] vancouver || js says:

    Easy to do, simple, light but satisfying. Sounds like a great home-cooking dish.

    last blog post: Beauties into Beasts: "Ugly" Fish (Grilled Pompano, Rainbow Trout, Sea Bass)

  8. Paula says:

    That chicken looks tasty! I bet it smells terrific, too. Yum!

    last blog post: Perfect Pronto Pesto

  9. Andreea says:

    this sounds so delicious and refreshing. will definitly have to give it a try.

  10. fearless – hope he likes it!

    mike – steaming is fun stuff. not so much when it’s 100F out though.

    kat – almost impossible to overcook!

    kevin – steaming brings out the flavor of chicken in a totally different way

    deb – will do the meme when I figure out who to tag :)

    js – it’s a great busy weeknight meal. not too fussy to make.

    daphne – thanks!

    paula – smelled great. should probably do this during the winter, though

    andrea – hope you like it!

  11. Jeff says:

    Steaming chicken. Wow I am definitely going to try this. Sounds so awesome and droolll…..Most importantly I bet the house smells awesome during the whole process.

  12. Sookie's Kitchen says:

    Gonna try this one this weekend! Love lemon chicken. Love.

    Also, I just had an epiphany that us filipinos love to cook – it’s our nature. ;) ~

    last blog post: Did you know Cous Cous & Semolina is the same thing???

  13. Otil-AE says:

    Ya you better this its really delicious…………i just remember when i was in Taiwan i use to eat this steam chicken together with whisky try drippings with oyster sauce & mince slice garlic & some chili’s on it. Its good to for pulutan.

  14. bjuliette says:

    I just tried your recipe today and it was really tasty! :)

  15. bjuliette says:

    And by the way, your pics look really professional!

  16. pooja says:


    I like chicken , your recipes is looking too tasty , i will try this at my home, thanks for new taste

  17. Mike says:

    Great site. I keep finding new and interesting things to do with chicken.

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