Welcome to the second edition of vendredi vietnamien! Restarting my blog and creating this series has definitely reignited my food mania and titillated my tastebuds again! I was afraid that my food adoration had been forever extinguished after moving here. Though living in the city of light had been a seemingly intangible dream ever since I first glimpsed the Arc de Triomphe in its full glory, with mini cars whizzing around the turnaround, adapting to life here wasn’t as seamless as I had imagined it would be once the dream was actually realized.
Initially, everything seemed like an enormous hurdle. Communicating was often limited to pointing and hand gestures while mumbling the few French words that I knew at the time, and mastering the language appeared nowhere within the realm of possibility (en fait, it still seems impossible). Losing the ability to communicate and consequently not being able to work whittled away my confidence and sense of independence. And, coming here during the most miserable of winters Paris had seen in years did nothing to improve my disposition. Even being in a country where gastronomy reigns and with a smorgasbord of ingredients at my fingertips, I still couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to enjoy one of my favoritest of pasttimes.
Slowly but surely though, I started to emerge from my existential crisis. Donning a pair of rose-colored spectacles, I started to fall in love again with the city I now call home, this magical city whose irrestible charm has reawakened my senses from their stupor. And alas, my food craze has recommenced and the calling of the kitchen has reeled me in again! With the recent return of the sunshine, I feel reinvigorated and eager to throw on my apron and fire up the stove as soon as I come home from work. It seems that the mister is as equally excited to be in the kitchen. While he’s been trying to perfect his pâté recipe, I’ve been continuing to hone my Vietnamese cooking skills.
Cooking in a Vietnamese household is often an imprecise art that usually entails instructions such as “add a little bit of this and little bit of that.” With no exact meausrements, making dishes on my own was often by trial and error. Although I’ve begun to acquire the ability to properly taste and season food, I still like to cook from recipes for the sake of achieving consistent results. Over time, I’ve amassed a trove of recipes from the copious notes that I’ve taken while cooking.
This week, I’d like to share another dish that I learned from the mister, gà kho gừng (braised chicken with ginger). The nước màu, which is a caramel sauce often used in Vietnamese cooking, gives the chicken a shiny, amber color, while the ginger imparts a subtle spiciness to the dish. Stay tuned for how to make nước màu!
Poulet au Gingembre
50g (≈8cm piece) of ginger, peeled and julienned
2 shallots, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 tbspn nước màu
0.5-1 liter of water
1 tspn ground black pepper
1 tspn garlic powder
1. Season the chicken with salt, sugar, pepper and garlic powder and let it marinate overnight in the fridge. I’ve found that a 3 to 1.5 ratio of salt to sugar is a nice balance for seasoning meats.
2. Brown the chicken over medium-low heat until it is about half-way cooked. While the chicken is browning, boil the water and set aside.
3. Heat some oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, garlic and ginger, cook until fragrant.
4. Add the chicken and drizzle the nước màu over it. Then, pour the hot water over the chicken until it is about half-covered, and add about a tablespoon of sugar and about a teaspoon of salt.
5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently turn the chicken occassionally to ensure that it cooks evenly on all sides. Continue to cook until the liquid is reduced to a thick caramel sauce.
6. Enjoy with steamed rice.