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 (Gà Chiên Sả Ớt)
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 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
- 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.
- Add garlic, lemongrass, shallots and Thai chili pepper. Toss until evenly combined (about 2 minutes).
- Mix together fish sauce, chicken stock 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.