My last trip to Southern California was this past May/June. Which means the last time I had Vietnamese food was in late May, early June. That’s entirely too long ago. But sadly, despite all the wonderful culinary offerings of my small town, we do not have Vietnamese food, nor do we have any Southeastern Asian food. One Chinese restaurant offers a few Thai dishes, but that’s about it.
When I was in college this past time (I’ve been a few times, I like degrees that do nothing for me apparently), I had to give a presentation in my cultural diversity class and picked my hometown of Garden Grove/Westminster, CA. In doing my research, I came across a cookbook that I knew was going to be mine upon reading its title. The Little Saigon Cookbook. Yeah, a cookbook full of recipes from my hometown, it had to be mine.
Well, this cookbook has been sitting on my shelf for a few years now, wondering why if I needed it so badly that I have never used it. I wondered the same thing. So, I took it off the shelf and started reading it. Yes, I read cookbooks like regular books.
While reading, I came across a recipe for “Pan-Fried Spicy Chicken with Mint and Ginger (Gà Chiên). I have had this dish many, many times in my life and knew I could make it using the book as my guide. I took the base recipe the book had and made my own adaptations. Nothing shocking or over the top but the results were fantastic and I am extremely pleased.
I will say, if you do not like fish sauce, this dish might be difficult for your palate. The combination of fish sauce, ginger, and mint is truly terrific, but the taste of fish sauce is distinct. I had some fresh-from-the-garden cucumbers (right before our first freeze) and made my sweet chili cucumbers and onions salad to add to the top of the dish. The cool, crispness of the salad really added to the ginger and mint chicken.
I took my first bite with slight trepidation. I am not going to lie, I was nervous. While I love eating Vietnamese food, I have not made many dishes before. But after the first bite, I was transported back to any of my favorite restaurants on Bolsa Ave.
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/ 2 tsp white pepper
- ¾ tsp sugar
- 6 garlic cloves; minced grated
- ⅓ cup fresh mint/ chopped
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- 1 tsp garlic chili sauce
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 2½ lbs chicken; cubed
- 5 tbsp high heat cooking oil (+/- to taste)
- Sweet Chili Cucumber and Onion Salad
- Cooked Jasmine rice
- Cut chicken and place in a zip seal bag
- In a bowl, combine olive oil, white pepper, sugar, garlic, mint, ginger, fish sauce, chili sauce, and onion powder; whisk until combined
- Pour liquid into bag, squeezing out the air and seal
- Shake the bag, coating the chicken in the sauce
- Allow the chicken to marinate a minimum of one hour, turning the bag every 15 minutes, but can marinate up to overnight, turning every few hours if possible
- Heat a wok or large pan over high heat
- Add the 5 tbsp oil, and heat
- Once the oil is hot, pour the entire contents of the bag into the wok/pan and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally
- Reduce head to medium high and cook an additional 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through
- Serve over jasmine rice, or any rice of choice and top with Sweet Chili Cucumber and Onion Salad