Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken with Squash Soup and Fried Butterfish

6 Jun

We stopped by Ma’s house on the way home to discuss some details for the dam hoi and ended up staying for an impromptu cooking lesson and feast. Fortunately we arrived just as she was getting things going so I was able to watch over her shoulder and ask enough questions to sketch out the recipes and note her methods. A majority of which, of course, are all to taste. Three dishes were prepared start to finish in just over 30 minutes. Can’t beat that.

Canh Bi, Ga Xao Xa Ot, Ca Chim

Canh Bi, Ga Xao Xa Ot, Ca Chim

I’ll test these out myself soon and finalize ingredient ratios. For those of you who are familiar with the flavors and ingredients, dive right in!

The Ga Xao Xe Ot (Ga Sow Sah Oc), Lemongrass Chicken, was already on the stove. Guys, this is so easy. Just make it already. Here’s all you need:

  • Chicken wings
  • Caramel Sauce
  • Minced Lemongrass
  • Fish Sauce
Clay pot with chicken wings on the stove

Here’s that clay pot I need to get.

Start with your caramel sauce – probably several tablespoons – and toss in the chicken. Do not add water. The juices from the chicken will be all you need. After 10 minutes or so, she added two large serving spoons of minced lemongrass. Keep this stuff in the freezer for easier food prep.

Chicken wings browning, adding minced lemongrass.

See how the chicken is already browning? Give them a good stir to mix and coat evenly when you add the lemongrass.

From here, add fish sauce to taste – a couple of tablespoons will do. Cook for approximately 30 minutes until caramelized and cooked thoroughly. The longer you cook, the more the fat will render and meat will fall off the bone.

Kho dishes are served with a simple soup and rice, and make for a well rounded, totally satisfying meal.

Fuzzy melon soup and caramel lemongrass chicken

Canh Bi (Canh Bee) – Winter Fuzzy Melon Soup 

This is so simple, and having watched Ma prepare it I now know my mistakes when attempting the similar Canh Bao Tom  – Opo squash and shrimp soup.

Here’s what you need:

  • Winter/Fuzzy Squash (or melon) depending on your grocer
  • Chicken broth seasoning
  • Chicken wings
  • Green onion
  • Salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
This is a fuzzy melon/squash. AKA winter melon.

This is a fuzzy melon/squash. AKA winter melon.

Peel the melon and cut into thick half moons, about half an inch thick, then wash thoroughly.

Washing fuzzy melon

Toss in a pot of water with several raw chicken wings and chicken broth seasoning (will figure out ratios…but do it to taste). Let all this simmer for 15 – 20 minutes and then add a few green onions roughly chopped. Ma got hers from the backyard. We can almost do that, too, by the way.

Herb garden and cutting green onions

Just before serving, Ma pinched a piece of squash and nodded with approval, indicating that it was done. By my spoon test, it should be soft but not mushy and not cut through easily. Add fresh cracked black pepper just before serving.

My favorite part of dinner wasn’t part of the plan, but was still prepared after the chicken and soup were both finishing up on the stove.

Ca Chim (Ca Cheem) – Palmburo Fish, which appears to be a kind of butterfish, is so very delicious without any seasoning. At $2.99 per pound, it’s a steal. The preparation couldn’t be simpler. Here’s how it goes:

  • Palmburo Fish (butterfish) – fins, head and tail removed
  • Table salt
  • Oil

Take the fish and clean it with table salt. Grab a handful and rub it all over the outside and inside , then rinse thoroughly. Score the fish on either side to help cook through.

Cleaning butterfish

Heat enough cooking oil to cover the bottom of a small fry pan and add the fish. Cover and cook for around 7 minutes. Flip and cook another 5 or so until the skin is crispy.

While that was happening, she made fresh nuoc mam dipping sauce.

Fried butterfish with nuoc mam dipping sauce

Crushing it.

I finally saw it start to finish and estimated the amounts. So excited to be able to make this. Ma’s nuoc mam is the best in the family.

Nuoc Mam Dipping Sauce

  • 5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 2 large soup spoons sugar
  • 1 spoon Sambal chili garlic sauce
  • 1 lime juiced
  • 1/2 cup or so fish sauce

Mix dry ingredients first then add the liquids. Start with less fish sauce and add, tasting, until you get the flavor you like.

Garlic, sugar and chili sauce for nuoc mam dipping sauce

So there you have it. A full, unbelievably fresh and satisfying dinner in under 45 minutes.

One Response to “Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken with Squash Soup and Fried Butterfish”

  1. TheGreatZambini June 6, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

    So lucky to have that trove of knowledge at your fingertips. I`m all about guess and check when I`m making foreign foods, which, oddly enough, is everything but Thai. I can totally do Thai. It really is odd, because I grew up in America with third generation Americans. Why is Thai so easy for me? I think D.C. has influenced me strongly.

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