Vietnamese caramelized chicken

October 28, 2009

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Serves 4 as part of multicourse family meal

1 pound boneless chicken thighs with skin, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and very finely chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large onion, halved and cut into thin crescents
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 red Thai chilies, seeded and cut into rounds
2 teaspoons bottled Asian fish sauce
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves (for garnish)
1/2 bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped (for garnish)
1. In a bowl, toss the chicken with plenty of salt and pepper and 3 tablespoons of the lemongrass. Set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When it starts to shimmer, add the sugar. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes or until the sugar clumps together and then melts into a syrup. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes longer or until the syrup turns into a caramel brown liquid suspended in the oil. You will smell a pleasant burnt sugar aroma. Watch carefully as it can burn at this point. If it starts to turn black, pull the skillet off the stove before continuing.

3. Stir in the remaining lemongrass, onion, and 1 tablespoon of the garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until the mixture turns golden.

4. Add the chicken and turn the heat to high. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 1/2 minutes. If there isn’t enough sauce to coat the chicken, add water 1 tablespoon at a time (it may sputter and seize; pull the skillet off the stove until it stops).

5. Add the chilies and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the fish sauce and remaining garlic. Mix well. When the chicken is cooked through (cut into a piece to check), taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper, if you like. Garnish with cilantro and scallions. Serve with rice. Adapted from “The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook’’