P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Inc.'s 40-plus restaurant chain, operating in 19 states, owes much of its success to founder Paul Fleming's unique idea of pairing oriental cuisine with American-style service. At the outset, when he opened the first of the restaurants in Scottsdale, Arizona, Fleming broke with the traditional Chinese restaurant format. With his collaborator, chef Philip Chiang, he devised a comparatively limited menu that featured far fewer dishes than the menus of typical, full-service, Chinese restaurants. Incorporating an American steak house dining style and a formidable selection of wines and cheeses, P.F. Chang's offers such additional oriental restaurant anomalies as espresso and cappuccino. Although P.F. Chang's China Bistros are stylish in decor, displaying motifs from the Ming and T'ang Dynasties and hand-painted murals, the dishes are moderately priced, partly because one of Fleming's aims was to provide high quality but affordable Chinese food for "the masses."
Phillips Better Lemon Chicken
P.F. Chang's China Bistro Copycat Recipe
1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts or thighs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon each water and cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
dash of white pepper
2 tablespoons salad oil
1 cup all purpose flour, unsifted
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup water
lemon sauce (recipe follows)
Skin and bone chicken; cut in pieces roughly 2 inches square. Pound chicken lightly with the back of a cleaver or heavy knife so each piece is of uniform thickness. In a bowl, combine soy, water, the 1 tablespoon cornstarch, sesame oil, and pepper. Add chicken and stir to coat, then stir in 1 tablespoon of the salad oil and let stand for 15 minutes to marinate. In a separate bowl, combine flour, the 1/4 cup cornstarch, and baking powder. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon salad oil and water and blend until smooth. Let batter stand for 10 minutes.
In a wide frying pan, pour salad oil to a depth of 1 1/2 inches and heat to 350 degrees on a deep-frying thermometer.Dip each piece of chicken in batter, then place in hot oil. Fry chicken without crowding, turning occasionally, until crust is golden brown and meat is no longer pink (about 5 to 6 minutes for breasts, 7 to 8 minutes for thighs). Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Keep warm in a 200 degree oven until all pieces are cooked.
Cut 1 large thin-skinned lemon in thin slices; discard any seeds and end pieces. In a small pan, heat 1 tbsp salad oil over medium -high heat. Add lemon slices and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add 1 cup chicken broth, 7 tablespoons sugar, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, and salt to taste. Simmer for 2 minutes. Blend 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Pour into sauce and cook, stirring, until sauce bubbles and thickens slightly. Pour over chicken just before serving.
Note: In the lemon sauce, the ratio of sugar and lemon varies with the cook. I didn't want it as sweet, so I used only 4 tablespoons of sugar.