Vietnamese Grilled Chicken with Vermicelli Noodles (Bun Ga Nuong)
Bún gà nướng xả is a fabulous and simple meal. It’s perfect for when the weather’s hot, and as you may have heard, California is experiencing quite a hot spell at the moment. Vietnamese grilled chicken marinated in soy sauce and lemongrass is served with vermicelli rice noodles, a few vegetables and Vietnamese dipping sauce (nước mắm) on the side.
In my opinion, what makes the dish is the marinade for the chicken. The sweetness from palm sugar and the spiciness from the lemongrass bring out the flavor of the meat. The chicken doesn't require a lot of preparation; just let the chicken marinate for an hour and you'll have a splendid meal in no time.
Yields: 6 servings1-½ pounds chicken (see tips), boneless and skinless
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cloves garlic , finely minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon mushroom seasoning salt (or regular salt)
2 teaspoons papaya paste (see tips)
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder
2 tablespoons grated palm sugar
2 teaspoons lemongrass purée (see tips)
2 tablespoons lime juice
4 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 cup green onions, sliced into 2" pieces
½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 (16-ounce) package vermicelli rice noodles (bún in Vietnamese), cooked and cooled to room temperature
1 cucumber, seeded and cut into matchsticks
½ head iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 cup carrot and daikon pickles
4 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons roasted peanuts, slightly crushed
2 jalapeño peppers (optional), thinly sliced
Marinating the chicken:
Trim the fat around the bottom of the breast if there is any. Wash the chicken and pat dry using paper towels. Cut the chicken into 2-½" pieces. Season with kosher salt and red chili powder.
In a zip-top bag (or a bowl), combine the garlic, shallot, papaya, baking powder, palm sugar, lemongrass, green onions and soy sauce. Add the chicken. Shake the bag gently to coat the meat with the marinade (or mix well). Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil. Place the bag in a baking dish (for easy cleanup). Marinate in the refrigerator for about an hour.
Grilling the chicken:
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator ahead of time to bring it back to room temperature. Sprinkle the meat with mushroom seasoning salt (or regular salt).
In a deep non-stick grill pan, brush about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the grill is hot, add the chicken. Cook for 5 minutes. Lift the meat with tongs and check for a caramelized crust around the meat, then flip the chicken. Lower the heat to medium-low. Cover the pan and let grill for another 5 minutes.
Finish with a drizzle of lime juice and a sprinkle of black pepper.
In a bowl, combine the lettuce, mint and cucumber. Toss well.
When you're ready to serve, in each individual bowl, place some carrot and daikon pickles. Add the vermicelli noodles, the lettuce combination and some crushed peanuts. Top with the grilled chicken and a few slices of chile pepper.
Serve with nước mắm on the side.
Enjoy with a tall glass of chilled ginger and lemongrass drink.
I like mixing 1 part chicken breast with 1 part dark meat (chicken thighs). I find the result to be more moist, as dark meat is more flavorful and has more fat than chicken breasts.
Papaya and baking powder are both great meat tenderizers. This was Baji, Lulu's late grandma's secret for tender and moist meat. Peel a green papaya. Grind the cubed papaya in a mini food processor, place about 2 teaspoons of papaya paste per slot in an ice-cube tray and freeze them. Transfer the ice-cubes 3 by 3 into sealable plastic bags and place back in the freezer. I think it's the best way to keep the same flavor without getting freezer burn. I store them exactly as I would extra pesto.
For the lemongrass purée: Wash a stalk of lemongrass. Remove all the white powder from the leaves. Cut the stalk in half. Crush the younger part with the back of a chef's knife and set it aside (excellent for making broth). Cut the remaining stalk into extremely thin slices using a chef's knife. In a mortar and pestle, grind the thin slices of lemongrass, then transfer and mix everything using a mini food processor. It should turn into a fine moist powder. Set aside. You could also store the lemongrass purée in the freezer the same as papaya.
You could also thread the chicken onto skewers (try to alternate dark and breast meat).
Mushroom seasoning salt brings a very distinct, earthy flavor to the sauce. You can get it at any gourmet specialty store or in most Korean stores. I buy mine at the Marina -10122 Bandley Drive -Cupertino, CA 95014.
The soy sauce brings saltiness to the dish and a nice amber brown color. My favorite soy sauce is the Da Bo De brand. It has a very nice flavor and is not too salty. You can this particular sauce at Dai Thanh Asian market on 420 South 2nd St, in San Jose.
All the ingredients listed above can be found in any Asian stores.Published By: on September 29, 2010.