WF2 Recipe: Chicken Nanking

Confession #1: In the midst of purging our stuff and preparing for the movers and dealing with the disruption caused by a string of people tromping through our house (prospective buyers, inspector [and, sadly, not this kind],  foundation guy, plumber), I have zero desire or time to be creative in the kitchen. We are literally eating grilled chicken and raw vegetables at most meals for the near future.

On the up side: We sold our house!

On the double up side: To make up for being somewhat absent from my blog, I’m sharing my recipe for Chicken Nanking. It requires more prep than grilled chicken and raw vegetables, but it’s also far more satisfying. Enjoy!

Confession #2: One time, back in the day, when Dave and I were on a date at the restaurant that inspired this recipe, we ate Chicken Nanking for dinner — and ordered more to go so we could eat it for breakfast the next day. It’s that good.


Chicken Nanking from Well Fed 2

Serves 2-4 | Prep 20 minutes | Marinate 30 minutes | Cook 30 minutes | Whole30 Compliant

My first official date with my husband Dave was at the House of Nanking in San Francisco’s Chinatown, in 1992. It’s a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, the windows smeared with steam and decades of grease. When the door opens, aromas drift out to tease hungry crowds waiting to get inside to sample the namesake dish. Dave told me it was a litmus test: If I liked the chicken, there’d be a second date. We’ve been eating together ever since.

This is two dishes in one. With the sauce, it’s tangy, sweet, and well… saucy. Without, it’s flavorful and clean. Either way, prep all the components in advance, then fry it up just before eating.

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs

  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos or this soy sauce substitute

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

  • 1 teaspoon arrowroot

  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated (about 1 tablespoon)

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

  • 1 pound green beans

  • 1 large sweet potato (about 10-12 ounces)

Sauce (optional):
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce

  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos

  • 1 tablespoon Kickass Ketchup (or other paleo/Whole30 compliant ketchup)

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

  • 1 dried date (or dried fig), pit removed

  • 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • dash cayenne pepper


Prep the chicken. In a medium bowl, mix the coconut aminos, sesame oil, arrowroot, ginger, and garlic. Cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces and add to the bowl. Mix well, then cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to overnight.


Prep the veggies. Peel the sweet potato and cut in half lengthwise, then cut into 1/4-inch slices. Set aside. Wash and trim the green beans, then cut in half cross-wise. Set aside.


Prep the sauce. Place all the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. When you’re ready to start stir-frying the chicken and veggies, pour the sauce into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer so the sauce thickens.


Cook the veg. In a large, non-stick skillet or wok, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil, then add the sweet potatoes. Cover and steam until tender, 4-5 minutes. Remove the sweet potatoes to a large bowl. Add another 1/2 cup water to the pan, bring to a boil, then add the green beans. Cover and steam until tender, 4-5 minutes. Remove the beans from the pan and add to the bowl with the sweet potatoes.


Cook the chicken. In the same skillet, dry out any remaining water and heat 1 teaspoon coconut oil over medium-high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade (and discard remaining marinade). Working in batches, if necessary, add the chicken in a single layer and cook until well browned, about 4-5 minutes per side. Try not to crowd the pan or the chicken won’t attain the crispy, brown exterior that makes this dish feel decadent. As the chicken browns, add it to the bowl with the vegetables.


If using the sauce: Return the chicken and veggies to the sauté pan, add the sauce, and stir-fry until coated with sauce and heated through. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and scallions.


If not using the sauce: Return the chicken and veggies to the sauté pan and season with a few dashes of coconut aminos. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and scallions. Tastes great with oven-roasted cauliflower rice.

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  • DJDeeJay says:

    Looks delicious. To save time, could you just steam both veggies together in a deeper pot?

    • You can steam them together — I separated them because I wanted the green beans to be a little crisp and I wanted the sweet potatoes to be pretty soft. If you do them together, it’s a harder to control the texture because they’re both cooking for the exact same amount of time. But if you don’t care about that, you can certainly do them together to save a step!

  • Asima says:

    It sort of hurt my heart how much coconut amino$ I’ll have to u$e though. Sounds worth it though!

  • Kate Dutton-Gillett says:

    Melissa, I find that your Sunshine Sauce on anything makes anything a meal and very, very satisfying!! Stay strong, you two will be moved in no time!! very best wishes from the Mid South Bay!!

  • Ann says:

    When you finally arrive in the Valley be sure to go to Norwich farmers market, it is bay far the best in NH/VT. you will be thrilled! I am a consider only and other than loving this market have no other interest.
    Welcome to you new home.

  • Jackie says:

    Congratulations on selling your house. Yeah, it’s lots and lots of work to move, but it will be SO satisfying once you’re finally settled in your new place. 🙂

    Speaking of satisfying, I’ve made this dish at least half a dozen times or more, and it’s really delicious. Pretty much everything we’ve tried from both of your cookbooks has been yummy, but Chicken Nanking is probably our favorite so far. Thank you for providing such wonderful recipes!

  • Yum! I have yet to make this and this is a good reminder. I just demolished a bowl of Italian Sausage and Eggplant Strata from my freezer … oh, deliciousness.

  • Noblepower says:

    Holy cow, Mel, I remember when House of Nanking first opened – I worked across the street from it and was there ALL. THE. TIME.
    I haven’t made this recipe yet, I’ll have to give it a go as it sounds as good as everything else out of your WF & WFII.

  • Tammy says:

    Never commented on a recipe before but this was that good. I simplified it and used veggies on hand.. I stir fried broccoli, frozen Shitaki mushrooms, and sliced carrots. Then I proceeded with the rest of the recipe. Tasted like I was eating in a restaurant!

  • Kathie says:

    OMG this was amazing. Even my husband said it was like having restaurant food at home. The best part is that we have sauce left over!!!
    Thanks so much for another great recipe!

  • erica d says:

    Made this today and it was a hit! even my two kids ages 3 &5 liked it! (they are picky) I will use orange sweet potatoes the next time though, this time i had some not as sweet yellow ones. BTW i live in SF and have been to that crazy delicious restaurant! can’t wait to buy WF2! you are the best.

  • Jen Hasseld says:

    I’ve got s mouth full of this as I type and it’s heaven! Subbed sugar snap peas and left the sauce off. On a bed of cauli rice and sprinkled with cashews? Soooo good. Another slam dunk recipe from you!!!

  • Erin says:

    Hi Melissa,

    Love your site and cookbooks! Made the Nanking chicken last night and it was a hit! I’m wondering why you use chicken thighs in your recipe as opposed to chicken breasts? Any particular reason? Thanks!

    • I like the flavor and texture of thighs more than breast. They got more fat ands tay tender while cooking. But if you prefer breasts, you can replace the thighs with breasts. You’ll want to reduce the cooking time a bit to compensate.

  • Jenny says:

    I don’t think sesame seed oil is Whole30 compliant. Can I substitute olive oil?

    • All of the recipes that I indicate are Whole30 approved have been officially reviewed by the Whole30 and are compliant, so you can use the sesame oil here with full confidence.

      For more, see this “Sesame oil is compliant, but we recommend you limit use, like with vegetable oils, because of the kind of fat it contains.” at this link:

      In my recipes, oils like sesame are used sparingly to add flavor. The taste will be compromised if you replace with olive oil, but the recipe will still work.

  • andria says:

    This recipe is wonderful! You are truly talented, thank you!

  • Oralia Acosta says:

    This is EXCELLENT Mel! I have made NUMEROUS of your recipes and I pretty much LOVE them all! I would ask you to marry me just so we can cook, but I’m straight and you’re married! Haha!