If you’ve eaten Lemon Chicken from a Chinese restaurant here in Australia, my guess is that it appeared as pieces of battered and deep fried chicken in a thick, yellow lemon sauce. I would venture to say that most Chinese people who eat it will not recognise it as ‘Chinese food’. This dish falls into what I’d call Chine-Oz food, along with its close cousins, beef-and-black-bean and sweet-and-sour-pork. These dishes may have had origins in Chinese cuisine but they have definitely evolved to become uniquely Aussie!

This is my own take on Lemon Chicken, best eaten with a salad rather than #43. Special Fried Rice…

it all came about because I had lots of lemons in my kitchen and had to do something with them. I hit on marinating chicken with it, to BBQ. Then I had the thought that lemon (and other citrus) zest is so amazingly fragrant – it seemed a pity to just use the juice and throw the rest out. So this Lemon Chicken uses lots of zest-you use it in the marinade, then cook and eat it! Believe you me, it will make your tastebuds sing. The lemon oil in the zest has the lemoniest of flavours, and when you cook the zest, the oil helps crisp up the zest. Deeelicious!

First, zest and juice 3 large lemons (I used Eureka ones). Put both in a large bowl with fish sauce and sugar (to balance the tart juice), followed by chicken thigh fillets (I’ll give the recipe proper below). Coat the chicken well with the marinade and zest. I actually got right in there and massaged the marinade into the chicken. I wanted to work that lovely lemon oil out of the zest and into the chicken pieces. You have to give it a go. It’ll be the only time you get to stick your hand into a pile of uncooked chicken, pull it out and have it smelling exactly like lemon meringue pie! 😀 Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.





Meanwhile, if it is your household’s usual practice to follow that strict Aussie custom of MEN ONLY at the barbecue, please begin coaxing your BBQ Man to using a brush to baste the chicken with the marinade, and to cook something rather unusual on the hotplate. No big deal. Just a tiny bit of… you know… Lemon zest. Peel, that is. To eat with the chicken. Yes, it’s quite safe. No, they don’t HAVE to eat it. But it’ll taste good.

Now, when you’ve got the BBQ Man doing what he does best and firing up the barbie, here’s what you do. Take the chicken out of the fridge and with a pair of tongs and a butter knife, scrape the bits of zest off the chicken, into a bowl and set aside. You don’t have to get every last bit off. Just most of it. Work your way through each piece until you have a pool of marinade left. Put that in a smaller container with a heat proof brush. You should end up with something that looks like this: the chicken, the zest and the marinade.



 Cooked zest…mmmm

 Hand them to the BBQ Man and tell him to cooked the chicken, brush to marinade on occasionally and toss the zest on the hotplate until it browns. Serve the chicken with the cooked zest scattered on top.

 Serve with a salad and/or barbecued vegetables

 Sorry about the quality of the pic. I was in a hurry to eat. 😀

PS! Chicken thighs are much, much nicer for barbecuing, rather than breasts, I find. We happened to have chicken thighs with skin on and ohhhh they were even better for barbecuing because the skin got all nice and crispy. You have to try it!

Lemon Chicken a la Oz

Serves 6-8 (or 4-5 hungry Smiths)


1kg chicken thighs, preferably with skin on

3 large lemons

3 tbs fish sauce

2 tbs sugar


1. Remove lemon zest with a zester, into long strips (or you can peel with an ordinary peeler, and cut into strips)

2. Juice the lemons into a large bowl

3. Add the fish sauce, sugar and zest into the bowl, mix together

4. Add the chicken to the bowl, coat with the marinade and massage marinade into chicken and set aside for at least an hour

5. Smell hands before washing-see? Lemon meringue pie, right?

6. Remove zest from chicken pieces and set aside

7. Drain the marinade to use as baste during cooking

8. Give to BBQ man with instructions to cook the chicken, baste with the marinade as he goes and to brown the lemon zest.

9. Serve the chicken with the cooked zest scattered on top