We absolutely love the umami goodness of fish sauce. Well, to take it a step further … we pretty much love all the cuisines of Southeast Asia. Fresh herbs, hot peppers, coconut milk, tons of veggies, easy proteins with inexpensive cuts. Grilling, braising, fresh, stewed. You name it. Our copies of Jeff Alford and Naomi Duguid’s books on the cuisines of Asia are stained, ripped and dog-eared to the point of almost not being recognizable. Testament to their work and the nature of their subject. This is a riff on a few of their recipes, combined with other discoveries and experiences. This one is a keeper and ripe for your own twists and evolutions!
Chicken with Fish Sauce Caramel
2 packs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 tablespoons oil
3 large shallots, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
One 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled, julienned
1/2 cup palm sugar or light brown sugar
1/8 cup rice vinegar
1/8 cup fish sauce
1 jalapeño, sliced or 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
Preheat oven to 400. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Using a deep braising pot or large sauté pan, add chicken to braiser, skin side up. Place on top shelf in your oven; roast for 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Pour the oil out of the braiser/skillet, reserving enough to coat the bottom of the pan.
Return braiser/skillet to stovetop, moderate heat. Add shallots, garlic, and half of the ginger; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about 2 minutes.
Reduce oven to 375. Add sugar, vinegar, fish sauce, and 1/2 cup water to skillet. While skillet is still on the stovetop, bring to a boil and return chicken to skillet, skin side up. Cover. Simmer over moderate heat, occasionally basting the chicken, 8 minutes.
Remove the cover. Baste chicken. Return to oven until sauce thickens. Keep an eye on the sauce, add additional water if sauce starts to thicken too quickly. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165°, about 15 minutes.
Transfer chicken to a platter. Add jalapeño and remaining ginger; add additional water or boil a bit to reduce to sauce consistency. Drizzle sauce over the chicken. Garnish with cilantro.
Serve with jasmine rice, additional cilantro, a squeeze of lime and a jar of sambal oelek!