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Authentic Vietnamese recipes from the Motherland

Spicy Lemon Grass Chicken (Gà Chiên Sả Ớt)

A couple years back, my husband and I attended a Vietnam charity gala in San Francisco. We had a great night. Not only did we successfully sneaked into the VIP entrance by acting like we belong (BTW, worked like a charm!) and endlessly sampled delicious street food from around the world prepared by the best local chefs, but I also unexpectedly met one of my favorite authors, Chef Charles Phan. Phan is the Chef and Owner of one of San Francisco's famous restaurants, Slanted Door, and an award-winning author of Vietnamese Home Cooking. My husband gifted me his cookbook a few years back for inspiration and it has been a staple in my kitchen ever since. I shook his hand, babbled out something incomprehensible then scurried away nervously like a star-struck loon. Yep, it was an awesome night.

How to Make Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken Ga Chien Xa Ot

I've pretty much done all the recipes in Vietnamese Home Cooking, and my all-time quick favorite is Chef Phan's version of lemongrass chicken. It's a simple recipe of pan-fried chicken tossed in savory and aromatic lemongrass. Chef Phan recommends to use a mixture of skinless boneless chicken thighs and breasts, but here I use one whole chicken -- bones and skins in all. It's not the most glamorous when eating this (gnawing on bones doesn't make you look too sexy unfortunately) but bones and skin add a ton of flavor. It was literally finger-looking good. Hope you enjoy the below recipe as much as I did. Happy eating!

Ga Chien Sa Lemongrass Chicken

Spicy Lemon Grass Chicken Recipe (Gà Chiên Sả Ớt)

Recipe adapted from Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan
Serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken cut into bite-size pieces (1 small whole chicken, or a mixture of breasts and thighs)
  • 1/4 vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup minced lemongrass
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots
  • 1 minced Thai chili pepper (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chicken stock (or water)
  • 1/4 teaspoon white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cooking wine
  • 3 scallions (cut into 1-inch segments)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped roasted peanuts

Instructions

  1. Heat up vegetable oil in wok or pan on high heat. Add chicken (make sure chicken are patted dry with paper towels before adding to hot oil). Toss for 4-6 minutes until golden brown on all sides. Pour out excess oil, leaving about 3 tablespoons in the wok with chicken. Reserve excess oil for other uses.
  2. Add garlic, lemongrass, shallots and Thai chili pepper. Toss until evenly combined (about 2 minutes).
  3. Mix together fish sauce, chicken stock and sugar in a small bowl. Add to wok and toss with chicken for 1 minute.
  4. Add in cooking wine along the inside edge of the wok and deglaze (dislodge brown bits at bottom of the wok with a wooden spoon).
  5. Garnish with scallions and peanuts. Serve the chicken on its own as an appetizer or with steamed rice for a full meal. 
Quick Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken Recipe
spicy lemongrass chicken ga chien sa ot

Chinese Takeout Recipe: Honey Walnut Shrimp

Honey Walnut Shrimp is a widely popular Chinese-American takeout dish. It's crunchy succulent shrimp dressed in a creamy honey-mayo sauce, topped with caramelized walnuts. It is a tasty appetizer or when eaten with steamed white rice, a filling entree that's loved by many.

Eating this dish at a restaurant can be quite expensive. Plus, restaurant version uses small shrimp that are heavily battered and drenched in too much sauce. Making this at home is not only economical, but I can have it just the way I like it, using quality ingredients. Happy eating!

Honey Walnut Shrimp

Honey Walnut Shrimp

Chinese Takeout Recipe: Honey Walnut Shrimp

Serves 2-4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup corn starch
  • Oil for deep-frying

Caramel Sauce

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar

Instructions

  1. Bake the walnuts in the oven at 350 F for about 5 minutes until nicely toasted. 
  2. To make the caramel sauce, heat up the water in a small sauce pan until it comes to a boil. Add sugar. Cook the mixture until it reaches a nice golden color. Add in toasted walnuts and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove walnuts and place them on a sheet of parchment paper to dry. Make sure that walnuts are not touching one another.
  3. Whisk egg whites in a medium-size bowl with a fork until light and frothy. Add corn starch and whisk until combined. Add shrimp and lightly tossed until shrimp is evenly coated.
  4. Heat up oil in a pot for deep frying. Drop in the battered shrimp one at a time to prevent sticking. Once cooked (about 1-2 minutes), remove from oil and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to remove excess oil.
  5. In a medium-size bowl, mix together mayonnaise, honey and condensed milk. Add in the fried shrimp. Toss shrimp until evenly coated with mayonnaise mixture. Transfer shrimp to a serving dish and top shrimp with caramelized walnuts. Garnish with chopped green onions or cilantro (optional).