Lunchroom envy. I love it. Not having it. Giving it. You know, when everyone around the table starts sniffing the air and asking what it is your eating. And you smile smugly and say, "Chicken Simmered in Caramel Sauce." And then, unless they cook a lot, or are familiar Vietnamese foods, they look at you blankly. Good times.
Do you want to give lunchroom envy? This dish will do it for you. The aroma of the ginger is intoxicating. I found this recipe in Quick & Easy Vietnamese: 75 Everyday Recipes a book which I've sang the praises of many times. If you haven't gotten you a copy yet, you really don't know what you are missing.
Everything in the book is easy, and unbelievably tasty. This dish was no exception. My chicken didn't come out as dark and caramely as the pictures in the book. I think it's because I used more chicken than what the recipe called for and my chicken steamed a little more than it browned. Didn't matter it was still delicious. The slight heat from the ginger with the sweetness of the sugar and the earthiness of the fish sauce...perfect.
Chicken Simmered in Caramel Sauce
Serves 4 - 6
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tablespoons chopped shallots or onion
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar or palm sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
1/4 cup water
3 green onions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
Chop the chicken into big chunks by halving each thigh and then cutting each half into quarters. In a large, deep skillet or a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until a bit of garlic sizzles at once. Add the chicken and cook for about 2 minutes, tossing once or twice.
Push the meat out to the sides of the pan and add the ginger, shallots, and garlic to the middle of the pan. Cook for about 1 minute, and then toss well. Add the fish sauce, both kinds of sugar, the salt, pepper, and chili flakes and toss to mix everything well. Let the sauce come to a strong boil and begin to thicken, and then add the water. Adjust the heat to maintain a lively simmer and then cook the chicken for 10 to 15 minutes, tossing now and then, When the sauce is a reddish brown syrup and the chicken is cooked, add the green onions and toss well. Transfer to a serving dish and serve hot or warm.