Monday, November 1, 2010

Vietnamese Style Chicken with Rice Vermicelli Bun Ga Nuong



mixed thigh and breast, nuoc mam pha sauce on side
Vietnamese food has been a part of my life since I was very young because I had a lot of Vietnamese American friends growing up. I can actually speak a bit of passable Vietnamese that I learned when I was a girl; enough to hold simple conversations, at least. Like desis, Vietnamese people are often very food savvy,  and are raised to enjoy eating and be analytical about food. It is just part of the culture. Vietnamese also love to eat out. Vietnamese food feels like home to me, and it was one of the things I missed most when I was in the Middle East. We have great Vietnamese restaurants in my home town. Several friends' families owned Vietnamese and Chinese-Vietnamese restaurants, and I spent many many afternoons after school hanging out with them there, or going after hours to karaoke parties held in these restaurants. I have great memories of Saturday morning pots of noodle soups, craw fish boils, and huge dinner parties at friends' homes, but as I was an ignorant kid and teenager, I just ate and didn't ever bother learning how to make anything, something I regret. As an adult, I have taken an interest in learning how to make and not just eat Vietnamese cuisine. I don't cook Vietnamese food very often because it is easier to just get great Vietnamese food from a restaurant for me. But recently for about once per week, I have been making bun ga nuong for my family. This is my childhood best friend's mom's marinade recipe for thit nuong. Bac Men uses pork or chicken, but of course I don't eat pork, so this is for chicken, or thit ga. Don't be shocked by the amount of sugar or black pepper...this recipe has worked well for me many times. And don't be afraid of MSG unless you have a sensitivity. MSG is good stuff :-) I promise you that you will love the results with this recipe.

Ga Nuong marinade:

6-8 chicken breast pieces or boneless skinless thighs

12 garlic pieces
1/2 bunch green onions
chop together in food processor and place in marinade bowl

Stir in:
1 tsp salt
6 tbs sugar
3 tbs finely ground black pepper
6 tbs fish sauce
4 tbs olive oil
pinch of MSG

Mix well with garlic/green onion mixture. Add chicken pieces and marinade 24 hours. The chicken can also be portioned and frozen.

Ga means chicken and nuong means grill. You can grill this chicken. I recommend grilling only if you use thigh meat. Breast turns out too dry. Alternatively, you can pan cook it. Pan sear the chicken in a lightly oiled frying pan. Remove from pan and cut into bite sized strips. Return to pan and finish cooking. This method yields superior browning and flavor.

Squeeze 2 tbs fresh lime juice on top of finished chicken


To serve:
Bun (rice vermicelli) one packet, follow cooking instructions on package
1 bag mixed salad greens
2 tbs carrots julienned, 1/2 cup bean sprouts, 1 cucumber thinly sliced, 2 tbs cilantro, few jalapeno slices (optional)

To serve oneself: In a large deep soup bowl, add some of the fresh salad ingredients. Top with about 1 cup cooked bun. Add cooked chicken pieces. Season with nuoc mam (see below).

As an option you may make bun ga nuong cha gio, or grilled style chicken with Vietnamese style eggrolls. Cha gio are made with rice paper skins (though some restos cheat and use thin wheat flour skins) and contain hair fine cellophane vermicelli, carrots, jicama, Chinese mushroom, and usually a mix of pork and shrimp. However, there are vegetarian versions available. It is time consuming to make them at home. I buy vegetarian cha gio from a local Vietnamese restaurant when I make bun to embellish my ga nuong. Use scissors to slice cha gio into bite size pieces, then just add a top the bun with the chicken.

Each diner adds about 1/4 cup or more of mixed fish sauce (nuoc mam pha or nuoc cham) to her bowl.  I make my fish sauce mix without a recipe, it is about 1 part fish sauce, 1 part lime juice, 1 part water, a few spoons of sugar, and a spoonful of sambal oelek, I often add vinegar...I just mix stuff until it tastes right...but I have linked a recipe for you. One may also choose to add Rooster Brand Huy Fong Sriracha sauce or Huy Fong sambal Oelek for extra red-hot chile heat. Limes can also be added as a garnish so diners can add fresh lime juice to their individual bowls. Crushed peanuts are also a nice addition.

I serve myself only a small portion of bun noodles since I low-carb. I have eaten this dish at friends' homes as a child. Bun isn't traditionally set out in the same way I depict here. The ingredients are kept separately and assembled on the table, or individual bowls are filled with salad and bun, and diners add their own meat and fish sauce. I serve it my own way to my family because it just works out easier for us this way, and I like the way they meat juices soak into the bun.

For the table,  the ga nuong and cha gio a top the bun, diners serve themselves

For this meal I added some shrimp into the final chicken stir fry.




single serving, less vermicelli for low carbing