Lemongrass Chicken is one of the more common Vietnamese chicken dishes. Wonderfully light and refreshing, Ga Xao Sa features many of the bright vibrant flavours typical of Vietnamese cuisine. Caramelizing the chicken also adds an extra layer of complexity to the sauce, making this both an easy and delicious dish to add to your Vietnamese culinary arsenal. This recipe can be easily adapted to satays by threading 2-3 chicken pieces onto lemongrass spears or bamboo skewers and serving them as appetizers or small plates, with little bowls of the leftover sauce on the side.
Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken (Ga Xao Sa)
Serves 4-6 as a Main Course
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine, October 2007
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp mild curry powder (I prefer Bolst's)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp plus 1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
3 tbsp water
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 fresh lemongrass stalks, white tender inner part only, minced
3 tsp fresh ginger, julienned
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
3 fresh red chiles, seeded and minced
5 cilantro sprigs or scallion curls for garnish
Steamed rice, for serving
In a bowl, combine the fish sauce, garlic, curry powder, salt and 1 1/2 tsp of the sugar. Add the chicken to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
In a small skillet, mix the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar with 1 tbsp of the water and cook over high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Then cook without stirring until a deep amber caramel forms, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tbsp of water. Transfer to a very small heatproof bowl.
Heat a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the oil and heat until shimmering. Add the lemon grass, ginger, shallot and chiles and stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chicken and caramel and stir-fry over moderate heat until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a pre-warmed decorative bowl and top with cilantro or scallions, and serve with steamed rice.
COOK'S NOTE: Sprinkle roasted unsalted peanuts over the finished dish for Ga Xao Sa Ot, or for a creamy curry variation of this dish, add 1/4 cup of coconut milk with the water and sugar at the beginning of the dish. Large prawns can also be substituted for the chicken, for a meat-free dish.