Monday, April 11, 2011

Ga Kho Gung (Chicken Braised in Caramel Sauce with Ginger)

I saw a wonderful recipe that appealed to me on the blog "Wandering Chopsticks" (this blog has some delicious Vietnamese recipes, she cooks other stuff too, and I love the background stories she shares. It's just a real honest genuine blog I enjoy) scrolling through her recipes I bumped into a recipe for "Ga Kho Gung" (Chicken braised in caramel sauce with ginger) I was a little unclear on how to make the caramel sauce and work with it so I saw a video on youtube that was helpful and prepared the chicken in a very similar way (practically same recipe different ratios) here's the video for those interested:

Do not be intimidated by the caramel sauce, it's rather simply, some people buy it pre-made but it's not hard. There's different methods, I've seen some that melt the sugar directly into the pan, others add a little oil then the sugar into the pan, and other's add sugar and water to a cold pan then bring it to boil on high til water evaporates. I use that method (the water with sugar) because it's the same way I make my caramel for Flan (a type of spanish dessert) and I feel comfortable doing it that way.

Anyways in Vietnamese cuisine caramel sauce is used as a base for many braised meats or fish (any protien seems to be feautured in some form of caramel sauce) it really is comfort food, these sauces are not overly sweet they just have like I don't know hard to describe, it's like this strong savory caramel taste, slightly salty and isn't overly sugary. My favorite of these dishes in caramel sauce is "Thit Heo Kho Trung" (Vietnamese Caramelized Pork and Egg) everyone seems to have a different version of this dish but my favorite version regardless of how simple or whatever is the one my ex's mother use to prepare which had only garlic as it's aromatic (I loved it!) I'll share my attempt to recreate that dish another time. (I believe his mother would marinade pork belly cubes with fish sauce, brown sugar, tons of garlic then quickly brown it maybe, add coconut juice, some water. add hard boiled eggs and more fish sauce to taste) that's another story though.

If you learn to make the caramel sauce this may become one of your favorite quick go to dishes, it is EXTREMELY quick to prepare, you will have it ready within 30- 40 minutes no joke.

The version I'm presenting today is with onion, garlic and strongly flavored with ginger. But there is variations that omit the ginger and onion and just use a lot of finely minced lemongrass and red thai chilies (I love the latter) anyways well here goes. The recipe I'm sharing is from both the video and Wandering Chopsticks blog. Stuff like fish sauce, salt, and sugar can always be adjusted to taste, as well as teh amount of onion, garlic, ginger (however know that ginger is a main element of this recipe so don't skimp on it) These are the ratios I used and I loved it.

Ingredients for Caramel Sauce:
-3 tablespoons white sugar
-1/3 cup water

Main Ingredients:
-3 1/2 lbs. chicken bone in, washed, cut into bite size pieces, patted dry
-1 onion finely chopped
-6 cloves garlic finely chopped
-2 1/2 inches ginger root, peeled, cut into rounds then thinly julienned
-1 1/2 cups water
-3 tablespoons fish sauce (a good quality like 3 Crabs or Flying Lion)
-2 teaspoons salt (more to taste)
-3 tsp. white sugar
Ingredients for garnish (optional)
-1 large sprig of green onion/ scallion washed and chopped into small pieces

(1) Have all your ingredients ready and on hand you DO NOT want to burn or ruin your caramel sauce, don't worry it is relatively simple not hard at all just be attentive. Put 3 tablespoons sugar in a pot, and add 1/3 cup water, bring to high heat and stir well with chop stick or sometype of stick it'll start bubbling vigorously
(2) Eventually the water will evaporate and it'll start darkening when it turns a dark golden brown (NOT BLACK) Keep an eye on it do not leave it alone during the whole process, if you burn your caramel sauce you ruin your dish (I've practiced a bit with Vietnamese dishes that use caramel sauce and have learned through trial and error) anyways when your caramel turns a golden dark brown like this
add your chicken all at once, ginger, garlic, onions, fish sauce, additional sugar and salt.
(3) Stir to coat everything in caramel, keep stirring about 2-4 minutes until chicken is no longer pink (just make sure it changed color like opaque)

Add water 1 1/2 cups and bring to a strong boil, add black pepper, cover and simmer on medium low for atleast 20 minutes. I like to simmer it 40 minutes and get the meat real tender and infused with the flavors.
(5) Turn off heat and serve with steamed white rice. You may garnish with chopped scallions.

I don't know if this is authentic or not but I like to serve it with like any plain boiled vegetable or a simple sautee of leafy greens sauteed with a little oil, garlic, and a bit of salt.

P.S. You guys need to try her "Bo Kho" it is very well spiced and rich!

(1) Be sure once the chicken comes to a boil in the beginning you taste for salt, like atleast add 3 tbsp. fish sauce and 2 tsp salt if your using 3 1/2 lbs chicken from the very beginning because since the chicken wasn't marinaded or anything you want to boil it with enough well sodium to make sure it penetrates it right from the beginning to ensure flavorful results :)

(2) I'm not an expert or anything in Vietnamese food, it is a little out of my comfort zone, so any form of constructive criticism, and suggestions are more than welcomed :)

*Yeah the pictures look kinda retarded :/ haven't gotten a new camera, and like my camera is pretty broken and like the screen doesn't display what I am taking a picture of so yeah.... but heck I'm still bloggin. Just bare with me and if you can't well too bad LOL. but hey much love and peace ha ha