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.
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!
Spicy Lemon Grass Chicken Recipe (Ga Chien Sa Ot)
Recipe adapted from Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan
1 lb chicken cut into bite-size pieces (1 small whole chicken, or a mixture of breasts and thighs)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup minced lemongrass
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 minced Thai chili pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon white sugar
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice cooking wine
3 scallions (cut into 1-inch segments)
1 tablespoon chopped roasted peanuts
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.
Add garlic, lemongrass, shallots and Thai chili pepper. Toss evenly combined (about 2 minutes).
Mix together fish sauce and sugar in a small bowl. Add to wok and toss with chicken for 1 minute.
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).
Garnish with scallions and peanuts. Serve the chicken on its own as an appetizer or with steamed rice for a full meal.