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In my hometown, the mall stands, a shell of itself and an era. A rural farming area was not the most exciting of places, so going to the mall as a kid in the 80s and 90s was the thing, it was the third space to hang out. You’d walk around in a skylight-lit cavity filled with tile and potted waxy leaf plants and cubes upon cubes of chain stores. If you were lucky, you’d have money in your pocket and you and your friend could split a combination plate of Chinese chicken with a mountainous serving of carrot and pea-speckled yellow rice. It’s this, this Mall Chinese Chicken that’s the true meal that made teenagers feel like adults, even if it was just for a moment. This nostalgia-coated chicken isn’t just satisfying memories, it was good, very good. This recipe is a carbon copy of that flavor with a sweet, sticky brown sauce and crunchy seared chicken. Better yet, it can be whipped up in under thirty minutes.

Versions of this Mall Chinese Chicken are all over the internet, but they are overly complicated with a myriad of ingredients and loads of marinating time, these recipes are far from approachable. When it comes to this chicken, it’s all about the texture. The chicken has to be slightly crispy and the sauce has to be slightly sticky. The sweet-salty flavors required for replication take little to no ingredients or time.

Start by dredging the cut-up chicken breast with cornstarch, salt, and pepper and set aside. The cornstarch will give the chicken a slightly crisp outer coating and the salt will draw out the excess moisture.

Next, go about making the sauce. Whisk the remaining cornstarch with the chicken stock, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, cooking sherry, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic. If you don’t have any alcohol like sherry or brandy for cooking, you can omit the alcohol completely.

Once combined, go over to the stove and heat up a saucepan with sesame oil. The sesame oil has a great, nutty flavor, but you can use whatever oil you have on hand. Go and saute the chicken, turning to get each and every square inch of the meat crispy. At this point, the center won’t be fully cooked, but it’ll cook more later.

Into the pan with the chicken, whisk in the sauce, making sure the cornstarch isn’t left in the bottom of the mixing bowl (it will sink to the bottom).

Serve immediately, and you have a taste of the not-so-distant past, and honestly, this chicken needs a revival.

The chicken is both crispy but moist, and the sauce has a great depth of flavor.

Mall Chinese Chicken has a great deal of satisfying savoriness but also packs a touch of sweetness to round all the other ingredients out. Served with rice, and you have yourself a combination plate with plenty of servings to be eaten. No trip to the mall is required.

Yield(s): Serves 4

20m prep time

15m cook time

Rated 5.0 out of 5
Rated by 2 reviewers

Allergens: Soy, Sesame

When you share or print a 12 Tomatoes recipe,
you're making mealtime meaningful.
100% of the Share to Care sponsor fees fund meals for families in need. Learn More
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons cooking sherry or bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons butter, vegetable oil, or sesame oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  1. In a bowl combine chicken pieces with salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons cornstarch, set aside.
  2. In another bowl combine remaining cornstarch, chicken stock, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, cooking sherry, light brown sugar, garlic, and ginger.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the chicken in batches, letting the sides sear to get a slightly golden on the outside around 3 minutes on one side and 2 minutes on another side. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Lower the heat and add in the sauce, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan to incorporate the chicken flavor into the sauce, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Once it comes to a simmer, add the chicken and continue to cook until the chicken is warmed through and the sauce is thick, about another 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately and enjoy.