Recipe: Chicken of the Gods from Bali Hai

Bali Hai Chicken of the Gods recipe

Chicken of the Gods

This is a classic entrée from Bali Hai’s midcentury Cantonese menu, and to this day is remembered fondly by many San Diegans. Bali Hai Restaurant is an iconic Tiki Modern restaurant and bar on Shelter Island in San Diego, originally opened as Christian’s Hut in 1953. The recipe below is based on restaurateur Tom Ham’s original, and appeared in a local newspaper in 1982. It has been modernized and quantities have been adjusted for the home cook.

Bali Hai logo, modern

1 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon white pepper
4 boneless chicken breasts
1 egg, beaten
Water chestnut flour
Peanut oil

White Sauce (Velouté)
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
Kosher salt and white pepper, to taste

For Supreme Sauce
Add sliced mushrooms, sautéed butter

Jasmine Rice
1 cup jasmine rice
1 3/4 cups water
1 tablespoon butter or sesame oil

To Serve
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Chicken. Purchase thin or thinly sliced boneless chicken breasts. Pound to tenderize with a kitchen mallet and place in a shallow glass pan. Whisk together sherry, soy sauce and white pepper, and pour over chicken. Cover, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes – overnight is better.

Cream Sauce (Chicken Velouté). Make a white roux by melting butter in a pan and whisking in flour. Whisk on low heat for about 5-10 minutes, to cook out flour taste. You want a lightly-colored cream sauce, so be careful not to brown the flour. Slowly whisk in chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Shake cream and cornstarch together in a covered jar until throughly mixed. Whisk into stock until smooth. If needed, salt and pepper to taste.

For Supreme Sauce, sauté some sliced button or crimini mushrooms in butter, then add to cream sauce.

Jasmine Rice. Heat water and add rice, oil or butter. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, until rice has absorbed the liquid. Remove from heat and cover for another 15 minutes.

Toast sesame seeds in a pan or in oven until golden brown. Set aside. Thinly slice a half head of lettuce and set aside in a container.

Heat half-an-inch of peanut oil in a heavy pan. Beat an egg and pour into a flat container. Dip each chicken breast in egg, then dredge through water chestnut flour to coat evenly. Fry each breast, turning until crispy and lightly browned. Drain on paper towels.

To Serve. Lay out a bed of shredded lettuce on dinner plate, then a layer of rice. Slice each breast into strips, then fan out the cutlets over the rice. Top with cream sauce and sesame seeds. Enjoy!



Citation: Martin S. Lindsay. ‘Recipe: Chicken of the Gods from Bali Hai.’ Classic San Diego: tasty bites from the history of America’s finest city. Web. <>

6 thoughts on “Recipe: Chicken of the Gods from Bali Hai

  1. Great feature to send recipes! Suggestion – include a “print” feature to make printing the recipes a “one-click” function.

    Bali Hai at one time had a delectable dish called “pressed duck”. Rectangle formed cubes of duck and ? pressed and crisp fried. This item hasn’t been served there for years. Any chance you can find it and post?

    I made the Caesar’s Hillcrest mushroom sauce from your web page. Fabulous! Brought back wonderful memories just smelling it cooking. It took two days to make but was well worth it. BTW I “cheated” and bought prepared beef bone stock. Ingredients are the same as recipe calls for – just much easier than from scratch.

    Thank you for your research and hard work.

    Paul M. Laperruque

  2. @ Steve Kang – So, this is a shot in the dark. But, I am an SD native. We went to Bali Hai in the late 70s and 80s and we LOVED Chicken of the Gods. Around the time of the remodel, the recipe seemed to change. Many in my family remember the sauce being much more cornstarch-like and less cream-like. There was an umami to it that I cannot find. Do you have any advice/insight? It would solve a life-long mystery for me to be able to cook it the original way.

  3. @Steve Kang – I recall a time when the recipe was not so creamy. I am an SD native and went to bali all the time in the late 70s and 80s. The recipe changed. Does anyone know the old recipe?

  4. Hoping to find anyone who knows the recipe before it changed to being white and creamy. In the late 70’s it was clear and amber colored without cream. Anyone?

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