I am happy to announce a new section for this blog ~ Viet Cooking Session ~. Each month, I will make an effort to write detailed descriptions and cooking method of a particular Vietnamese dish. Some of them are traditional, and some will be my own interpretation of Vietnamese cuisine.
I hope this new feature will help you understand more about Vietnamese cuisine and may inspire to cook some healthy dishes at home ;).
~ The dish ~
The first dish of this new series is Tam Ki Chicken Rice. In western countries, the most famous form of chicken rice is Hainese-style. Little is known about an absolutely delicious variation from Quang Nam, Vietnam. The dish is very typical of Central-style Vietnamese cooking. The flavours are deeper, bolder and a lot spicier compared with the northern style that I grew up with.
The way to cook Tam Ki chicken rice is very similar to Hainese chicken rice. Start with the very best chicken, poach gently to get really juicy meat. The broth is then used to cook rice, two varieties, jasmine and sticky rice.
Then, comes the interesting part. The chicken, after being cooked, is coarsely shredded and mixed with herbs, lemon juice, sliced onions and chilli. The result is a beautifully balanced and refreshing flavour, which is very different from Chinese-style chicken rice. To accompany the dish is a variation of nuoc cham (Viet dipping sauce). The dipping sauce is smooth and thick, and fairly strong in flavours. Just think about the chicken flavour in harmony with that sweet-sour-spicy-salty note. So refreshing, and so Vietnamese!
~ Ingredients Notes ~
One of the most important ingredients for this recipe, I feel, is good fish sauce. Outside of Vietnam, I trust Viet Huong Three Crabs brand. It costs a bit more but totally worth the quality. Make sure to look carefully at the products since I have seen imitation brands out there. Substitute: other brands will do, but they tend to vary in flavours so tasting is important when cooking.
Rice varieties: we use two varieties of rice in this recipe. Normal jasmine rice and sticky rice. Sticky rice is also called sweet rice or glutinous rice. Substitution: you can use 100% jasmine rice. Basmati rice will be a nice substitute although the texture will be different.
Featuring herb: laksa leaves (also called Vietnamese mint, Vietnamese cilantro, Cambodian mint and hot mint). This herb has spicy note and really aromatic. Substitute: I feel a combination of cilantro (corriander) and spear mint may work.
Chillies: I have adjusted the chilli in this recipe by using the combo of bird eye chillies and long red chillies. The result is a mildly spicy dish. Feel free to adjust this ratio for hotter or less spicy outcome.
The chicken: free-range and organic. In short, the best you can find. In Vietnam, the local free-range chicken is used and this type of chicken is very flavoursome.
~ Equipment note ~
Large saucepan to cook the chicken.
Rice cooker is your friend. If not, use the stove top method.
Mortal and pestle
~ Ingredients ~
For 5-6 serving
2 cup jasmine rice
1/4 cup sticky rice
1 chicken, around 1.5kg
1-2 spring onion, clean
1 thumb-size piece of ginger
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
5 cloves garlic
4 bird eye chillies
2 long red chillies
1 brown onions
2 handfuls Vietnamese mint (laksa leaves) ~ around two small bunches. Leaves and top part picked our, coarsely chopped.
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
Sugar, Salt, white pepper, cooking oil
1 tomato (optional, decoration only), sliced. Or use cucumber.
Soak the rice (both types) in cold water for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking. 1 hour of soaking is ideal.
Bring a large saucepan full of water to the boil. Add in some salt and ½ tsp turmeric powder. Stuff the chicken captivity with spring onion and ginger. Gently lower the chicken into the boiling water. Wait until the water return to boiling point. Keep boiling over high heat for about 3 minutes before turn the heat to minimum so that the water barely simmers. Cover the pot and cook the chicken for 30-40 minutes. Once the chicken is cooked, take it out and put in a large bowl filled with cold water. This way, the chicken will not be overcooked. Leave the chicken to cool and discard the onion and ginger.
When the chicken is being cooked, peel the onion and thinly sliced. Soak the onion in a bowl of water mixed with 1/4c white vinegar. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Pound the garlic using the mortal and pestle until crushed. Similarly, pound the chillies (removing the chilli seeds will help to reduce the level of spiciness) to a coarse paste.
Once the chicken is cooked, drain the water from the rice. Put the rice in a rice cooker. Add in 1 tsp oil and a pinch of salt. Then, pour in around 1 cup or more of chicken broth. The water level should just reach the rice surface so adjust the quantity of broth accordingly. Cook the rice according to the manufacturer’s instruction. (If you do not have a rice cooker, you can follow the absorption method and cook the rice on the stove. Remember to turn the fire low so you don’t burn your rice).
Prepare the chicken: coarsely shred the chicken into medium pieces. Discard the bones.
Marinade the chicken: put about 1tsp salt and a pinch of pepper into the chicken meat. Start with 2 tbp sugar and juice of 1/2 lime. Mix everything together. Taste the chicken. It should have a good balance of saltiness, sweetness and sourness. Adjust the amount of ingredients until you have the desired taste. Once the taste is achieved, add in 1 handful of chopped laksa leaves, drained onion slices and half of the chilli paste prepared earlier.
Prepare the sauce: Put 2 tbp sugar in 1/4 cup fish sauce. Stir to combine. Add in juice of ¼ lime. Taste. The mixture should be intense in flavours but with hint of sweetness and sourness. Finally, when the taste is good, mix in all the garlic paste and the rest of the chillies paste. Stir to combine.
Arrange the tomato slices, rice then the chicken on a bowl. Serve with the sauce.
It is recommended that you cook some light soup with the leftover broth using Asian greens (or mixture of peas, carrots, or potatoes). This will go nicely with the dish.
Good side dish: sliced cucumber or some sorts of steamed greens are nice.
~ More Viet flavours ~
Care to cook more Vietnamese dishes? Check out my Viet recipe index.