Thursday, May 29, 2014

Vietnamese fried chicken

vietnamese fried chicken

For me, nothing says summer more than fried chicken. I can’t tell you how many picnics, family gatherings, and weekend lunches I’ve had in my life where we served fried chicken. It’s one of my main dishes of the season.

A few days ago, a group of us were sitting around discussing all the different styles of fried chicken, and one friend mentioned that recently she’d had Vietnamese fried chicken. While it wasn’t the like the fried chicken her grandmother made, it was still terrific.

Curious, I asked what made Vietnamese fried chicken different from the usual. She then explained that the chicken was glazed in a sweet and sour sauce. While the sticky sauce made the dish a little messier, you didn’t mind as that sauce was so, so good.

vietnamese fried chicken

Now, I have to admit that the first time I had Vietnamese food wasn’t in Texas but on a trip to Washington, D.C. when I was nine. Back then, there just were a handful of Vietnamese restaurants in Houston. But over the years, as the Vietnamese population in Texas has grown, Vietnamese restaurants have become quite common throughout the state, and it's now the odd place that doesn’t have at least one restaurant offering Vietnamese cuisine.

That said, while I’ve had many Vietnamese dishes, fried chicken was not one I’d tried. My friend’s hearty recommendation, however, lead me to do some research on the topic. While each recipe was different, they did all have a common theme—a finishing touch of garlic, fish sauce, chiles, and a hint of sugar. Clearly, those four things were the foundation for the sweet and sour glaze that distinguished Vietnamese fried chicken from what my great-grandma used to make.

Now fish sauce, if you’ve never tasted it, can seem strange. This stuff is strong and as the name implies, it tastes of fish. A little definitely goes a long way, so when making both the marinade and the glaze for the fried chicken, I was a bit worried that adding more than a drop would overpower the dish. That said, its role is to provide a savory warmth, and I shouldn’t have worried as cooking the sauce with the other ingredients tempers its flavor and makes it an excellent team player. So if fish sauce is new to you, do not be afraid!

vietnamese fried chicken

As for the fried chicken itself, you coat the chicken in rice flour, which makes it extra crisp. (And for those who are concerned about such things, rice flour is gluten free.) While you could use a variety of pieces, I chose to use all drumsticks as they make for easy eating. Cooking the fried chicken is not difficult; if you’ve made fried chicken before you’ll be familiar with the process, and if you haven’t know that it doesn’t require much more skill than being able to deal with hot oil and a bit of patience.

However, it’s that final slathering of the chicken with a glaze made from fish sauce, garlic, sugar, and hot sauce that takes this dish over the top. After you generously mop each piece with the tangy, sweet, and spicy glaze, you then serve the chicken with cilantro, lime wedges, and more hot sauce. A pile of napkins will come in handy, too.

vietnamese fried chicken

This is definitely not my great-grandma’s fried chicken, but that’s okay, as it’s a fine dish that represents Texas today—a state with many cultural influences. Though no matter its origins, this fried chicken is also just very, very good, and a welcome addition to my summertime table.

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BOOK TOUR!
If you’d like to meet in person and talk about Texas, food, recipes, and making memories at the family table, I’m going to be doing some book signings next month and I’d love to see you! Here are the dates for June (I'll be heading to North Texas in the fall). For more details about each event, please check back with my book page. See you soon!

Austin, Book People, June 10, 7pm

San Antonio, Twig, June 11, 5 to 7pm

Alpine, Front Street Books, June 13, 6pm

Houston, Blue Willow, June 16, 7pm

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Vietnamese fried chicken


Ingredients for the chicken:
1 1/2 cups warm water
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup fish sauce
3 pounds drum sticks
1 cup rice flour
Vegetable oil, for frying

Ingredients for the sweet and sour glaze:
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons hot sauce, such as Sriracha
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Salt

Ingredients for serving:
Cilantro
Lime wedges
Lots of napkins

Instructions:
To make the marinade, stir together the warm water, garlic, sugar, and salt. Once the sugar and salt have dissolved, stir in the fish sauce. Pour the marinade over the drumsticks in a bowl, food-storage container, or food-storage bag, and allow the chicken to marinate covered in the refrigerator for 1 to 4 hours.

After the chicken has marinated, line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the rice flour in a large bowl. Remove the chicken from the marinade, dredge each piece in the rice flour until well coated, and place the flour-coated chicken pieces on the sheet. (They can be close together, but should not overlap.) Allow the flour-coated chicken pieces to rest unrefrigerated for 1 hour. This step will help the coating adhere better when the chicken fries. Discard the marinade.

To fry the chicken, line a sheet pan with paper towels. On medium-high, heat to 350°F 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a large heavy skillet, preferably cast iron. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, after 5 minutes of heating, stick a wooden spoon into the oil. If the oil bubbles the spoon, it should be hot enough. Working in batches, place the chicken pieces in the oil, skin side down, turn down the heat to medium, cover the skillet and cook for 7 to 8 minutes.

Take off the cover, gently turn over the chicken with tongs or a wooden spoon, and continue to cook uncovered for 7 to 8 more minutes. Stick an instant read thermometer in the largest piece, and check that it’s 150°F. If so, place the fried chicken the paper towels to drain. If not, continue to cook for a couple more minutes. Repeat for the remaining pieces, using the same oil.

To make the glaze, take 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil and heat it up on medium-low in a skillet. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds or until softened and fragrant. Add the brown sugar and water, and while stirring cook until glossy and foamy, about 2 minutes. Stir in the fish sauce, hot sauce, and ginger, and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in the lime juice, and add salt to taste.

Brush the glaze on the fried chicken and serve with cilantro, lime wedges, hot sauce, and plenty of napkins.


Yield:
4 servings

Notes:
If you want to make this with other pieces besides just drumsticks, note that larger pieces such as thighs and breasts will take a bit longer to cook. For instance, I’d probably figure in about 19-20 minutes for those pieces, turning once.

Also, you can find rice flour in most stores now in the baking aisle, but if you can’t find it regular all-purpose flour can be substituted. Fish sauce can be found in the condiment aisle or the international aisle.

Finally, if you don’t want to use hot sauce that’s fine, but you may want to add an extra tablespoon of sugar and fish sauce so you’ll have enough glaze.


Author:


HOMESICKTEXAN.COM
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23 comments:

girlnamedallyn said...

Fish sauce is a gloriously funky condiment that is always in our fridge. I highly recommend the brand Red Boat, since it's made the traditional way without unnecessary ingredients.
I love different kinds of fried chicken, though my heart lies with Nashville Hot Chicken. It's impossible to find a good version here in New York, but we keep hoping the trend with make its way here.
Will have to try this recipe soon!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Girlnamedallyn--Red Boat is the brand I use, too, as it's just fish and salt. And Nashville fried chicken is also very good. Love the heat!

Anonymous said...

I thought most asian styled fried chicken was double-fried for that extra crunchiness of the batter. Are you opposed to that approach or just have a method you prefer more?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--None of the recipes I researched for Vietnamese fried chicken, including some in Vietnamese (with the help of Google translate) did double frying, so I haven't done it that way either.

Matt Robinson said...

We are huge Vietnamese food fans here, and this looks amazing!!!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Matt--Thank you! They're are indeed very good!

ami@naivecookcooks said...

These look so crisp and delicious!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Amo--They are!

More Cowbell said...

This sounds delicious. I've ordered a lot of fried chicken in Chinese restaurants, but it's pretty basic (but good). The only one of my Asian friends who double fries chicken is Korean, so maybe that's the only cuisine that does it. Wait, I lie. I have a Thai friend who does that, too.

Fish sauce seems to really mellow out once it's cooked, but the salty! Just a little bit goes a long way. ;) My Thai friend told me that brands made there or for that market are sweeter because the Thai's like the sweet. I've never made a side-by-side comparison, myself, but they all seem to add a nice depth of flavor that's amazing considering how very little goes into a recipe.

Nice to see this here. I'd forgotten how good this version of fried chicken is. Thanks!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

More Cowbell--Thank you for sharing your knowledge on Asian fried chicken! And yes, a little bit of fish sauce definitely goes a long way!

TexasDeb said...

Lisa: I'm wondering if this sauce could be used as an alternative to Buffalo style sauce on fried wings? I have one at home who loves heat and one who loves sweet. It looks like this might be a pleasing option?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

TexasDeb--It would be terrific on wings!

Anonymous said...

Love Vietnamese food. Thanks for the recipe. Been following you for a couple of years now and I look forward to seeing you in Houston. Keep up the great work!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--You're welcome and thank you!

Devon said...

My mouth literally watered reading this post. I love Korean fried chicken and Vietnamese sounds just as good

ericacbarnett said...

Have you tried the original Kim Son on Bellaire? I don't know if it's still as good now that it's a pretty big local chain, but their salt and pepper crabs were the very first Vietnamese food I ever tasted as a kid, and I was hooked.

Jason Weaver said...

Fried chicken looks awesome! Here in Dallas we do love our Vietnamese food. . . some of the best around! Thanks for the recipe .

Anonymous said...

Erica, I have only ever found those salt and pepper crabs at Kim Son. And I have looked from New York to Florida. And they used to cook a dish of honey glazed quail and serve them with sticky rice cakes.

I so miss that place. I just moved from the East Coast to Alabama and boy are the pickings slim.

Cortney said...

Made a batch of these chicken legs tonight, they are stellar! The rice flour gave them an amazing crunch and I just loved the sticky sweet and sour glaze. Absolutely fabulous!

Anonymous said...

This is a great dish. Incredible flavor in the sweet and sour sauce. And the marinate was killer as well. Gave the chicken some incredible flavor.

Shelley said...

I read one too many newspaper articles on this or that recent problem with contaminated chicken, so I've sworn off it for the month. FDA, step up!

But I always come back.

Jaye said...

There has been a large Vietnamese population in Houston since I moved there in 1984. It's just that, other than pho houses and Kim Son, must Vietnamese-run restaurants offered Chinese food. Kim Son was the only one that had both, but was still Chinese-centric. But we eat Chinese banquet dishes too for special occasions and wedding receptions.

At that time these restaurants were all in the original downtown Chinatown. It has since spread like wildfire to Bellaire since the late 80s. The original Kim Son was downtown, not in Bellaire.

WileyP said...

I fried up a bunch of drumsticks the other night and was really happy to have some leftovers to re-heat and nibble on for a couple evenings. This was a very good recipe and well worth the effort of cleaning the stove afterward! Thanks!

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