Ginger chicken, called "gà kho gừng" in Vietnamese, is a very flavorful caramelized chicken dish. Like many Vietnamese dishes, ginger chicken is a quick and easy meat entree to make when I'm in a hurry. The caramel is formed with honey and coconut soda, the chicken is coated until slightly browned and finally the dish is flavored with shredded fresh ginger.
This time, in addition to the jasmine rice that we always have ready in the rice cooker, I served some greens alongside the chicken. The result is an almost effortless, delicious meal. I like that!
Servings: 6 servings
1-½ pounds chicken thighs (see tips), boneless and skinless
3 cups buttermilk (optional)
4 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil)
1 (3-inch) chunk fresh ginger, peeled and finely shredded
2 cloves garlic, crushed and finely minced
3 tablespoons soy sauce, to taste
1 teaspoon red chili powder, to taste
3 red Thai bird chiles
1 (12-ounce) can coconut soda (or water)
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
1 teaspoon mushroom seasoning salt (or regular salt)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
6 sprigs cilantro, for garnish (optional)
One day ahead...
Marinating the chicken (optional):
This marinating step is not the traditional method but I find the chicken to be so much more tender with buttermilk.
Wash and pat them dry using paper towels. Cut into 1-½" cubes.
Season the chicken with 3/4 teaspoon red chili powder. Cover with buttermilk. Toss well. Place the chicken in a large bowl or a sealable zip-top bag. Drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of oil. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, pat the meat dry one more time using paper towels. Remove as much moisture as possible.
Prepping the chiles: Using a paring knife, create a deep incision in the red Thai bird chiles. Remove the seeds to make the dish slightly less spicy. Finely chop one of the chiles. Set aside. Note: remember not to rub your eyes after touching chile pepper seeds.
Season the chicken with the remaining red chili powder.
Use a heavy-bottomed pan with its matching lid. Add 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and 2 tablespoons of shredded ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Place the pieces of chicken. Sear the meat for 2 minutes; and flip the pieces. Add the red chiles and cook for an additional minute.
Add the honey, stir well, then cover with the coconut soda. Bring to a boil. It's important to watch the chicken carefully; as soon as the edges of the pan start caramelizing (about 5 minutes), immediately lower the heat to medium-low. Gently jiggle the pan in circles. Season with mushroom seasoning salt. Add soy sauce and about 3/4 to 1 cup of water (it should barely cover the chicken). Bring to a boil, then lower to a gentle simmer. Keep stirring every now and then. The chicken will brown after a few minutes.
Once the liquid is almost reduced, check the doneness of the meat (add another ½ cup of water and cook a bit longer if not fully cooked). There should be caramel-colored gravy at the bottom of the pan. Add black pepper and the remaining ginger. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Garnish with sprigs of cilantro and shredded fresh ginger.
Serve immediately with jasmine rice and Vietnamese sautéed greens.
Eat with chopsticks!
Mushroom seasoning salt brings a very distinct, earthy flavor to the sauce. You can buy it at gourmet specialty stores 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 good flavor and is not too salty. You can find this particular sauce, at Dai Thanh Asian market on 420 S 2nd St, San Jose.
Buttermilk is a great meat tenderizer. I used Bulgarian cultured buttermilk. I buy it at a local Middle Eastern market. If you live in the Bay Area, check out the Rose Market -1060 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94040.