With a penchant toward bold flavors, this recipe from Milk Street appealed to us from the get-go. Typically, bone-in chicken thighs are also sold with the skin on. Simply remove it before cooking, and if you make homemade chicken stock, save it with your other body parts for the next time you throw some together.
In Vietnam, turmeric, garlic, chilies and fish sauce—staple ingredients in the Vietnamese kitchen—douse chicken with a riot of flavor and provide that gorgeous caramel coloring. The other main ingredient, lemongrass, is a grass of robust habit native to southern India and Ceylon that is grown in tropical regions for its lemon-scented foliage used as a seasoning and that is the source of an aromatic essential oil.
Luckily, instead of mincing fresh lemongrass, which requires a good amount of time and effort, simply bruise the stalks so they split open and release their essential oils into the braising liquid; then remove and discard the stalks when cooking is complete.
The soy sauce was an addition to the Milk Street recipe, a stand-in for the MSG and pork bouillon. The braising liquid is thickened with a little cornstarch to give the sauce just a little body. Serve the chicken with steamed jasmine rice.
Simply stated, 2 1⁄2 pounds of bone-in chicken is not enough for four adults. Plan on eight large thighs, no matter the weight. I went ahead and incorporated this change in the list of ingredients below.
Heads Up: Don’t leave the skin on the chicken. The bone adds flavor to the braise, but not the skin, which turns soggy with simmering and releases fat into the liquid. But bone-in thighs are almost always sold with skin, so simply pull it off before cooking.
Vietnamese Braised Lemongrass Chicken
- 1 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
- 6 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 2 Fresno or jalapeño chilies, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp. ground turmeric
- 3 stalks fresh lemongrass, trimmed to the bottom 6 inches, dry outer layers discarded, bruised
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 cup + 1 Tbsp. water, divided
- 2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
- 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, skin removed and discarded, patted dry
- 1 tsp. cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp. lime juice
- 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
- Ground black pepper
- Cilantro and/or sliced scallions, to serve
- In a large Dutch oven over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the garlic, chilies and turmeric, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the lemongrass, broth, soy sauce, sugar and 1 cup water, then bring to a simmer. Add the chicken skinned side down in even layer and return to a simmer. Cover, reduce to medium-low and cook until a skewer inserted into the chicken meets no resistance, 30 to 40 minutes.
- Using tongs, transfer the chicken skinned side up to a serving bowl. Cook the braising liquid over medium until reduced by about half, about 12 minutes. Remove and discard the lemon grass.In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Whisk the mixture into the braising liquid, return to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly thickened, about 1 minute.
- Off heat, stir the lime juice and fish sauce into the braising liquid, then taste and season with pepper. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pot, cover and let stand until heated through, about 5 minutes. Return the braise to the serving bowl and sprinkle with cilantro.
Recipe adapted by Diane Unger for Milk Street