(aka gà kho gừng, braised chicken with ginger. The scallions and coriander are well worth adding, as they put in a note of freshness the dish is sorely lacking otherwise. I cooked mine in a covered wok because I’m lazy, but if you have a spare claypot, it’s also nicer to let the flavours develop. One of the adjustments I made to the recipe was lengthening cooking time, as there’s hardly any point in braising something for 5 minutes…)
In a wok over high heat, put in oil, ginger, chilli-garlic sauce, garlic, onion and stir until fragrant.
Add the chicken, fish sauce, sugar, and salt. Stir for 2-3 minutes until barely cooked. If using a claypot, transfer the whole into it.
Add the chicken stock and the caramel sauce. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, maintaining a low simmer (you can cook for longer if you want to let the tastes develop. I usually have no time). Uncover, cook for 5 minutes until the sauce is thickened. Add the scallions and cilantro, and remove the pot from the heat.
Serve hot with rice and a vegetable (green beans is a nice idea).
Aka gà hấp rau răm. This started out as gà xé phay, a classic appetiser from the North/Centre. See, I had those rau răm leaves from the supermarket, so I thought I would make it from Bach Ngo’s Classic Cuisine of Vietnam. That was before I thought, “Hey, remember that cookbook you brought from Vietnam? See if you can find the recipe in there”. Fifteen minutes later, I was still seating at the table with the cookbook open at the page of the recipe, and the dictionary open on my knees–flipping through pages, muttering and cursing, and pausing only brief to google a tricky word that wasn’t in the dictionary or in my personal vocabulary. The variant in the book looked like an interesting recipe, except that a. I didn’t have most of the ingredients listed, and b. some things were plain odd, for instance the marinating of the onions followed by a complete omission of said onions from the subsequent bits of the recipe (or the surprise appearance of the rau răm about halfway through the recipe).
So I did what I usually do: went wild. Most of the stuff I didn’t have either got substituted or nixed; and the stuff I didn’t understand got fixed by referring to the Bach Ngo recipe. The end result is… pretty unconnected to either of the two recipes, but it tastes pretty good!
Do try to find rau răm if you can: it’s really one of those recipes that tastes quite different if you do the usual mint substitution.
Ga hap rau ram: steamed chicken with Vietnamese mint
Author: Aliette de Bodard
Recipe type: Main
A nice fresh and sweet dish, very easy to make.
1 red onion, sliced paper thin
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
6 tablespoons nuoc cham
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 garlic clove, cut into small pieces
⅔ cup rau ram leaves, chopped into small pieces
Mix together the salt, the rice wine, 1 tablespoon sriracha, the sugar, the pepper and the red onion (in this order precisely, in order to have a smooth sauce before putting in the onion). Let the flavours develop for 20-30 minutes.
Cut the chicken into rough chunks, and steam it in a basket for 20-30 minutes, until cooked.
Meanwhile, mix the sauce: the hoisin, the nuoc cham, the sesame oil, the garlic clove and 1 tablespoon of the sriracha. Taste and adjust: it should be sweet with a kick and a tang (especially, the hoisin taste shouldn’t overwhelm the other flavours).
When the chicken is cooked, chop it into small pieces. Mix well with the rau ram leaves.
Take the onions out of their liquid, rinse them once in cold water, and add to the chicken. Mix well.
Pour the sauce on top of the chicken-rau ram-onion mixture. Serve with rice and a vegetable.
Rau ram, Vietnamese mint, can be found in most Asian shops. If you can’t find any, you can use the common mint (NOT peppermint) in replacement, though the taste won’t be quite the same. The measurements I give are for leaves tightly packed into the measuring cup.
Sriracha can be replaced with your favorite chilli sauce.
You can also fry the red onion for a small bit before putting it into the marinade, if you don’t want the dish to taste strongly of onions (I don’t mind, but the H does).
Aka lazy (wo)man’s recipe. This is a mainstay of Chinese/Vietnamese takeaways in France–there are many, many variants depending on whether you marinade the beef (and what there is in the marinade, which can range from soy sauce to nước mắm), and what you then serve it with. Amusingly, the Vietnamese name of this is thịt bò xào hành tây, literally “beef meat sautéed with Western onions”!
(yes, the pic is slightly scary due to poor lighting. I swear this tastes better than it looks).
As it happened, I had leftover yellow onions from last week’s phở, and extra limes from buying a whole bag. So I marinated in nước chấm This would actually be better served with rice vermicelli, but I had leftover egg noodles which needed consuming. See? Frankenstein cooking.
Thit bo xao hanh tay (stir-fried beef with onions)
Recipe type: Main
A favourite takeaway dish, with plenty of onions to give it zip
300g beef, sliced very thin
2-3 yellow onions
2 fat garlic cloves, crushed or sliced
nước chấm, to taste
3 spring onions, sliced
2 nests egg noodles (or enough for two people)
sesame oil (optional)
Put the meat into a bowl, and mix it with 1 clove crushed garlic. Put just enough nước chấm to cover the beef slices). Wait for a bit (I usually leave it half an hour. If you’re really patient, you can wait until the marinade turns the beef brown by dint of lime acidity. Haven’t worked out a reliable formula for that yet).
Meanwhile, cook the noodles. The best primer I’ve found on dealing with egg noodles is over here; I never could follow the instructions, though. Mine always get tangled. So my standard strategy goes something like this: untangle noodles, throw into boiling water, stir around until the water starts to boil again, take casserole off the heat, rinse noodles under cold water, and put noodles back into the pan filled with cold water. So far, so good. Mine still get hopelessly tangled, which is why I cut them into pieces after they’ve gone cold. Yeah, I know, cheating. But you know, it works.
Set the noodles aside, and let’s tackle the onions. Chop them into small pieces. Fry them in an oiled wok, along with the remaining chopped garlic clove on low-medium heat, until they’re suitably soft (basically, until the bad sharp taste goes away). Then turn the heat up, and add the beef and its marinade. Cook for a few minutes, until the beef is cooked through and through. You probably need to add a bit of water at this stage, to keep everything moist in a sort of gravy.
Drain noodles, add them to the stir-fry, mixing vigorously. When they’re cooked to your taste, remove the wok from the heat. Fold in the spring onions, and add a dash of sesame oil if you feel like it (just a small amount, as you don’t want the taste of that to overwhelm the marinade).
NOTE: If you do decide to go for rice vermicelli rather than egg noodles, the procedure is the same, except you’ll probably want to skip the sesame oil (it doesn’t go well with rice vermicelli, in my limited experience).