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Authentic Vietnamese recipes from the Motherland

Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

A typical Vietnamese family meal consists of steamed white rice, a soup, a braised/grilled/stewed/fried protein dish and lots of fresh/pickled vegetables and herbs. The whole family gathers around a smorgasbord of food with their own bowl of steamed rice and a pair of chopsticks. Everyone grabs a little from each serving bowl and add it to their bowl of rice. Traditionally, people start off with the protein and vegetables. When the rice bowl is halfway empty, they ladle in the soup with the remaining rice and slurp it down. Slurping is not bad table manners in Vietnam. It’a sign of satisfied appetite and gratitude towards the cook.

 Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

One of my favorite family meals is chicken-based. One whole chicken can be made easily into two dishes. The backbone and wing tips of the chicken are chopped up and made into a stock for soup. My go-to soup in the Fall is Kabocha Squash Soup with Chicken (Canh Ga Nau Bi Do). The rest of the chicken is caramelized/braised with lots of ginger into a dish that we call Ga Kho Gung. I always serve the caramelized ginger chicken with fresh slices of cucumber. That way, I can use the braising liquid has a dipping sauce for the cucumbers.

 Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

When I was working the 9-to-5, I always packed the leftover caramelized ginger chicken for lunch. My work lunch was typically a bento box of caramelized ginger chicken with kimchi or freshly sliced cucumbers and a small portion of steamed white rice. The caramelized ginger chicken was always so much better the next day. So whenever I make Vietnamese caramelized ginger chicken for dinner, I always make sure to make a large batch so I can have plenty for lunch the next day.

 Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

To make Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung), I use a whole chicken minus the backbone and cut it into large chunks. The bones keep the chicken moist and flavorful.  However, chicken bones can be brittle if you don't cut them cleanly. The small pieces of bone can break apart in the pot which would be very difficult to fish out. To ensure a clean cut and avoid shards of bones in the pot, use a very sharp butcher knife and cut the chicken when it is half-frozen. Of course, you can skip the bones and the whole chicken by using boneless chicken thighs, which is ideal for small children and grownups who behave like small children.

 Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Chicken shrinks up quite a bit once cooked so I cut up the chicken no smaller than 2-inch chunks. The chicken pieces are marinated with a mixture of fish sauce, salt, sugar, chicken stock powder, ginger, shallots and black pepper. A tiny bit of thick soy sauce or Vietnamese caramel cooking sauce is used to darken and color the meat. The chicken gets slowly braised with coconut soda until the sugar in the marinade reduces and caramelized into a sweet and savory liquid, which use to drizzle over rice or as a vegetable dipping sauce.

 Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Chop up chicken into large 2-inch pieces. Coat the chicken with half of the salt. Rub salt into the chicken to give it a good cleaning. Rinse with cold running water then drain dry.
  2. Marinate chicken with ginger, shallots, dark soy sauce, chicken stock powder, sugar, remaining salt, pepper and fish sauce for at least 30 minutes at room temperature or overnight in fridge for best results.
  3. Lightly coat the bottom of a large skillet with vegetable oil and heat on medium high. Add chicken in a single layer (without the marinade liquid for now) and lightly fry on both sides until you smell the aroma of ginger and shallots (about 2-3 minutes per side).
  4. Add the marinade liquid and coconut soda. Simmer on medium low heat for 45 minutes (do not cover). Occasionally turn for even caramelization.
  5. When ready to serve, top with cilantro or green onions and a sprinkle of black pepper. Serve with steamed white rice and an optional side soup.
 Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Vietnamese Chicken Curry (Ca Ri Ga)

Just last week it was stormy and cold in California. I decided to make a large pot of Vietnamese Chicken Curry (Cà Ri Gà). Happiness is having a bowl of warm curry in the comfort of my home, while witnessing my annoying neighbor who looooves to stare into my soul retrieves her flying trash can down the street.

Every country has their own curry, but I, a full-fledged Vietnamese, am not biased at all when I say that the Vietnamese curry is the best one there is. It's not too pungent in spices. It's not too aromatic that it's overpowering and it's not too thick.

 Vietnamese Chicken Curry  (Ca Ri Ga)

Vietnamese Chicken Curry (Ca Ri Ga)

Vietnamese chicken curry (ca ri ga) has a great blend of spicy yellow curry, lemongrass, garlic and onions, all stewed with root vegetables in a rich chicken and coconut milk broth. 

I like to have my chicken curry ladled over a bowl of steamed rice for a hearty meal. Other times I have my curry in a small bowl with a side of toasted baguette. 

 Vietnamese Chicken Curry  (Cà Ri Gà  )

Vietnamese Chicken Curry (Cà Ri Gà)

Some people take the extra step of frying the potatoes before adding them to the stew. This is to prevent them from breaking apart in the curry. I like to keep this simple and not dirty up another pan so I skip the frying step entirely. To prevent the potatoes from overcooking and breaking apart, I recommend adding them to the stew toward the end of cooking.

Also, add the coconut milk towards the end of cooking to preserve its richness, flavor and aroma.

To get the most flavor out of the dish, use chicken thighs. For even more flavor,  use bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs. I had none so for my recipe below, I stuck with chicken tenders which still turned out great.

Vietnamese Chicken Curry Recipe (Ca Ri Ga)

Serves 5-7

Ingredients

Chicken Marinade

  • 2 lbs chicken (boneless chicken-thighs preferred, cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow curry powder

Curry

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced lemongrass
  • 5 garlic cloves (mince)
  • 1 large shallot (mince)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons yellow curry powder
  • 2-1/2 cups water
  • 19-oz can coconut milk
  • 1 lb of potatoes (peel and cut bite-size pieces)
  • 1 large white onion (slice into wedges)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 5 lemon leaves (optional; cut into thin strips)

Instructions

  1. Marinate the chicken with salt, sugar, pepper and yellow curry powder for at least 15 minutes. Overnight in fridge for best results.
  2. To make the curry, add vegetable oil to a medium-sized pot and heat on medium high.
  3. Add lemongrass, garlic, shallot, and curry powder. Saute for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. You want to sweat out the ingredients; not fry them. Lower the heat if necessary.
  4. Add marinated chicken and toss the chicken in the aromatic mixture until evenly coated.
  5. Add 1/2 cup water. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer on low for 30 minutes. The covered lid and low simmer will collect a lot of moisture for the broth.
  6. Add the coconut milk, potatoes, onion and rest of water (2 cups). Cover the pot but leave a small opening to prevent the coconut milk from boiling over. Simmer on low for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender.
  7. Season with salt and sugar. 
  8. Serve over a bowl of steamed white rice or with a side of toasted baguette. Top with a few sprinkles of julienned lemon leaves if desired.
Vietnamese Chicken Curry ca ri ga vicky pham