When I was working the 9-to-5, I always packed with me a home-cooked lunch. My coworkers always asked how I had the energy to cook dinner after work and pack lunch the next day. The answer was simple. It was all the same meals, cooked in bulk. Leftover dinners were packed for next day lunches.
One of the dishes that I make quickly in large portions is Vietnamese Braised Ginger Chicken or Gà kho Gừng. It's a common dish in Vietnamese home cooking. My favorite work lunch was a bento box of braised ginger chicken, simple sauteed mustard greens (or kimchi) and a small portion of steamed white rice. It's well-balanced with all the essentials: proteins, greens and carbs. Once heated in the microwave, the ginger smells incredible. It will definitely turn heads in the break room. Then again, heads might also turn because of the fish sauce.
I usually wait for chicken to be on sale at my local grocery store to stock up on all chicken cuts: thighs, legs, wings, and drumsticks. Any chicken cut with bone is the key for this dish. 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 will be very difficult to fish out. You will be spitting out bones constantly. To ensure a clean cut and avoid shards of bones in the pot, use a very sharp knife and cut the chicken when it is half-frozen. For children, it would be best to use boneless chicken thighs.
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 soy sauce, fish sauce, salt, sugar, chicken bouillon stock powder for additional flavor, ginger, shallots and pepper. The chicken then get slowly braised with coconut soda until the liquid reduces and slightly thickens. I love the sauce in this dish. I would scoop the savory yet slightly sweet sauce over white rice or use it as a dipping sauce for sauteed vegetables.
Vietnamese Ginger Chicken Recipe (Ga Kho Gung)
- 4 lb bone-in chicken (legs, drumsticks, or thighs)
- 2-inch piece ginger (peeled and minced)
- 2 large shallots (minced)
- 1 teaspoon thick soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon chicken stock powder
- 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt (reserve half for washing chicken)
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1 cup coconut soda (Coco brand)
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro/green onions (optional)
- Using a meat cleaver, chop up the chicken into 2-inch pieces. Soak the chicken in water with half of the salt for 10 minutes. Then drain the chicken into a colander and rinse with cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Marinate the chicken with half the amount of ginger, half the amount of shallots, dark soy sauce, powdered chicken bullion, sugar, remaining salt, pepper and fish sauce. Marinate for at least 30 minutes.
- Lightly coat the bottom of a medium size pot with vegetable oil and heat on medium high.
- Once hot, saute the remaining ginger and shallots until fragrant (about 15 seconds).
- Toss in the marinated chicken and lightly toss.
- Cover the pot with a lid and let it simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. The lid will trap in the moisture and quickly cook the chicken. Occasionally, stir the pot so that the chicken gets coated evenly.
- Uncover lid and add coconut soda.
- Simmer without lid until the liquid reduces by 1/4 (about 15 minutes).
- Top with cilantro or green onions. Serve with steamed white rice.