Chicken of the Gods

All, Chinese, Poultry

Tom Ham, the late owner of the Bali Hai restaurant in San Diego created this dish, which was a favorite of many people for years. Although no longer on the menu, you can sample his well-known dish at home, thanks to the staff at Bali Hai.

The recipe calls for chestnut flour, which is normally only available at oriental markets. If you don’t have it or can’t find it, just substitute regular flour. The dish won’t be quite as good, but it’s well worth making it anyway.

You can serve it with any accompaniments you want. Shown in the photo are deep fried lumpia (Philippine egg rolls) with some sweet and sour dipping sauce. The lumpia are available in most markets frozen and ready to cook, and of course you could substitute egg rolls or won tons. The chicken is served over a bed of rice, but you could also use noodles. Crunchy noodles would be especially good.

Here are the three parts: marinate the chicken, cook the chicken, and make the sauce.


2 to 3 pounds of boneless chicken pieces
8 ounces chestnut flour, or regular flour if necessary


1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons dry sherry
1 teaspoon soy sauce
dash of white pepper


Marinate the chicken in the marinade for 12-30 minutes. Remove and coat each piece with the chestnut flour. Heat some vegetable oil in a skillet and brown the chicken until done, about 10-15 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
4 cups chicken stock or broth
1 cup cream
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

You can toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet or pan for a few minutes until they start to brown and smell toasty. Put them aside for garnishing the dish at the end.

In a sauce pan, bring the chicken stock to a boil, Meanwhile, melt the butter in another sauce pan, add the flour, and cook while stirring constantly until the flour begins to brown slightly. (This is making a roux for thickening the sauce.) Add the hot chicken stock gradually, stirring rapidly to incorporate it into the roux. Continue stirring until after all the stock is added the sauce begins to thicken. After thickening, reduce the heat and add the cream, salt, and pepper. Taste the sauce and adjust the salt and pepper if needed.

Slice the chicken into neat slices and arrange them on the plates or on a warm platter. Cover with the sauce and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Serve while warm!

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