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In Ho Chi Minh City, cooks lacquer chicken with an easy savory-sweet sauce

Vietnamese Caramel Chicken

40 minutes

Vietnamese Caramel Chicken

The classic Vietnamese technique of simmering meat or fish in dark, bittersweet caramel mixed with fish sauce and a few aromatics yields rich, wonderfully complex savory-sweet flavors. And the technique could hardly be simpler. Instead of a traditional clay pot, we use a 12-inch skillet to make our version of gà kho, or caramel-simmered chicken, and we cook the chicken until the sauce forms a glaze, as we were taught in Vietnam. Bruising the lemon grass releases its flavor and fragrance but since the stalk is still whole, it is easy to remove and discard before serving; the simplest way to bruise it is with the blunt side of the blade of a chef’s knife or the butt end of the handle. Serve the chicken with steamed jasmine rice.


Vietnamese Caramel Pork Tenderloin

Cut two 1¼-pound pork tenderloins (trimmed of silver skin) in half lengthwise, then crosswise into ½-inch-thick pieces. Follow the recipe to make the caramel and cook the chilies, lemon grass, ginger and pepper. Add the pork and cook, stirring often, until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a medium bowl, then continue to cook the caramel mixture, stirring occasionally, until thickened to the consistency of honey, about 2 minutes. Off heat, return the pork to the skillet and stir to coat. Discard the lemongrass, then stir in the lime juice. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the scallions.

Vietnamese Caramel Salmon

Cut 2 pounds 1-inch-thick skinless salmon fillets into 1½-inch cubes. Follow the recipe to make the caramel and cook the chilies, lemon grass, ginger and pepper. Add the salmon and cook, stirring often, until the salmon is just opaque throughout, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove and discard the lemongrass, then stir in the lime juice. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the scallions.


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