Valerie Luu’s cousin swears by the ginger chicken sold by his favorite xoi ga street hawker in the Vietnamese city of Can Tho. After tasting it themselves on a scouting trip, Luu and Katie Kwan created their own version.
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1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce, such as nuoc mam (See Note)
4 whole chicken legs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
4 medium shallots, very finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1/2 cup minced peeled fresh ginger
3 Thai chiles, very finely chopped
1/2 cup sliced pickled daikon (See Note)
2 1/2 cups Chinese sticky rice (about 18 ounces), soaked overnight in water and drained (See Note)
How to Make It
In a large, shallow baking dish, stir 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar with 2 tablespoons of the fish sauce until the sugar is dissolved. Add the chicken legs and coat them thoroughly with the marinade. Let the chicken stand at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 450°. In a small saucepan, heat the vegetable oil. Add the scallions and cook over high heat until they sizzle, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, in a medium enameled cast-iron casserole, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of brown sugar with 1 tablespoon of water and cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until bubbling, about 3 minutes. Gradually stir in 1 1/2 cups of water, then stir in the remaining 1/3 cup of fish sauce along with the soy sauce, vinegar, honey and half of the scallion oil. Bring to a boil and simmer over moderately high heat until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the shallots, garlic, ginger and chiles and simmer over moderately low heat for 5 minutes.
Roast the chicken legs in the upper third of the oven for about 15 minutes, until they are browned.
Discard the chicken skin and nestle the legs in the sauce in the casserole. Tuck in the pickled daikon slices. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes, basting the chicken a few times, until cooked through; add a few tablespoons of water if the sauce gets too thick and dark.
Meanwhile, in a wide stainless steel or bamboo steamer, bring 1 1/2 inches of water to a boil. Moisten a double layer of cheesecloth that is large enough to cover the steamer basket and reach part of the way up the side; line the steamer basket with it. Add the drained rice to the basket and pat into an even layer. Cover and steam the rice over moderate heat for about 15 minutes, until tender.
Uncover the rice and season lightly with salt. Spoon the remaining scallion oil over the rice and stir gently. Serve the chicken with the sticky rice.
Nuoc mam is the word for fish sauce in Vietnamese. Some brands we like are Flying Lion, Three Crabs and Squid. Pickled daikon and Chinese sticky rice are available online or at Asian markets.
Rich, minerally German Riesling.
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