Ga Kho (Vietnamese Caramel Ginger Chicken)

Ever since we visited a fantastic Malaysian restaurant called Abell’s Kopi Tiam in Manuka, I’d been craving a really strong chicken and ginger combination. REALLY craving it, all week. We had a boneless chicken dish in a ginger and shallot sauce which was just incredible. The kind of flavours and textures that you remember forever.

So when it came to deciding what to cook for dinner, I searched “ginger chicken” in Foodgawker and discovered a recipe for Vietnamese Caramel Ginger Chicken or Ga Kho.

At first I was a little intimidated by making the caramel; it was the first time I’d ever put sugar in a pan without any water to let it cook. It was very easy though; after a few minutes the sugar melted and slowly turned into a rich red-brown. My other concern was the amount of fish sauce but in the end I couldn’t taste it, but I knew it wouldn’t be the same without it.

I feel ashamed to say that I was tempted to use garlic and ginger from a jar (which I use for quick and easy meals) but this dish really needs freshly sliced ginger and garlic, and lots of it. The end result was just stunning! The ginger was exactly the taste I was after, and the sauce was thick and sticky and sweet. The colour of the chicken was just gorgeous and the whole dish looked spectacular garnished with shallots (spring onions).

Vietnamese Caramel Ginger Chicken (Ga Kho)
Adapted from Cookin’ Canuck

1/3 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup water
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled, and cut into matchsticks
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1kg chicken legs, generously seasoned with salt
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepperpinch ground chilli
3 green onions, thinly sliced

Heat a large straight-sided skillet over medium heat and add sugar. Cook until the sugar starts to melt and turn brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, swirling the pan frequently, until the caramel is bubbling and turns reddish brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and, very carefully, pour in water. Please be sure to turn your face aside while you do this so you do not get splattered. If the caramel hardens, set the pan over medium-high heat. Stir until the caramel dissolves, then pour it into a heatproof measuring cup or bowl.

With hot water (so the leftover caramel bits don’t seize up on the bottom of the pan), clean and dry the pan. Place the skillet over medium-high heat and heat oil in the skillet. Add onion and ginger. Cook for 1 minute. Add sliced garlic and cook for an additional minute. With a slotted spoon, remove the onion, ginger, and garlic from the oil and reserve in a bowl.

To the skillet, add chicken. Cook until the chicken no longer looks raw on the outside, about 2 minutes per side. Yes, the pan will be crowded! Add the reserved caramel sauce, fish sauce, salt, black pepper, and chili. Mix to coat the chicken. Reduce the heat to medium and cook (the mixture will be simmering briskly) until the chicken is cooked through, turning the chicken every 2 to 3 minutes, about 20 minutes. Stir in the reserved onions, ginger, and garlic and cook for 2 to 3 additional minutes.

Transfer the chicken and cooked aromatics (ginger, etc.) to a serving platter. Thinly slice 3 green onions and use to garnish the chicken. Serve with rice.

Serves 4 to 6.