Craving Vietnamese Caramel Chicken Right Now!

April 5, 2012
Vietnamese caramel chicken is a surprising but totally delicious chicken dish.  Chicken thighs are marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, brown sugar, and black pepper.  In a saucepan, you'll begin making the caramel sauce made with sugar, aromatics like ginger and onions along with bold Asian seasonings including Asian fish sauce.  The chicken things are cooked and basted in this wonderfully seasoned sauce.  Fish sauce is available at most supermarkets.  Look for a brand that lists fish(usually anchovies) as the first ingredient because that usually indicates quality and flavor.  Serve this Vietnamese caramel chicken with  fluffy white rice and a simple salad of pickled daikon, carrots, and cilantro.
4 chicken thighs, with bone and skin
4 chicken legs, with skin
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons ginger, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Thai chilis, minced
1/2 cup brown sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1/4 cup sugar, plus ½ teaspoon
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce*
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 bunch scallions, chopped
In a large bowl, whisk together the 1 tablespoon brown sugar, black pepper and 2 tablespoons soy sauce. Add the chicken, toss to coat, cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Mix the onions, ginger, garlic, half the scallions and Thai chilis in a small bowl and set aside.
Once ready, pour both the sugars into a medium skillet over medium high heat and cook until they both begin to mix and melt, approximately 3-5 minutes. Pour 1/3 cup of water, the fish sauce and rice vinegar, along with the onions, ginger, garlic and Thai chilis. Cook another 5-7 minutes or until the sauce just begins to reduce, then remove from heat.
In a separate, larger skillet, heat a swirl of canola oil with the 1/2 teaspoon sugar over medium high heat. Once hot, add the chicken and sear on both sides, approximately 2 minutes per side, making sure the skin has sufficiently browned.
Pour half of the sauce in with the chicken and cook until it reduces by half. Turn the chicken over and add the remaining sauce. Cover and cook another 20-25 minutes or until done, basting the chicken occasionally and turning as necessary.
Garnish the chicken with the remaining scallions once done.
There wasn’t enough fish sauce in the house, so there is a significant decrease in the suggested amount for the caramel sauce. The chicken was marinated with soy sauce for this reason as well. If you’re going 100%% traditional, use all fish sauce for pure authenticity.

Image Sources: