Apr 12
2010

Vietnamese Caramel Ginger Chicken (Ga Kho) Recipe

Vietnamese Caramel Ginger Chicken (Ga Kho) Recipe

If you are like me, you have probably been seduced by popular Vietnamese foods, such as phở and banh mi. The flavors, delicate in the case of the traditional noodle soup (phở) and robust in the instance of the roasted or grilled pork sandwich (banh mi), are always pleasing but rather elusive.

During one of our monthly cooking group meetings, we decided to tackle Vietnamese food. One of the members of the group had received a thorough schooling in Vietnamese food from an ex-boyfriend when they visited his family in Vietnam. We learned that Vietnamese food is carefully balanced using five elements: salty (water), spicy (metal), bitter (fire), sour (wood), and sweet (Earth). Each element, in turn, corresponds to one of the body’s organs. We happily spent the afternoon playing around with different combination of these five elements, aptly changing the flavor of each dish by manipulating the balance of the elements. A little bit of fish sauce here, a splash of coconut soda there…I will never look at flavor profiles in the same way.

This dish, with its rich caramel and ginger sauce, epitomizes the principles of Vietnamese cooking. A simple caramel sauce (don’t be nervous – it’s just melted and cooked sugar) blends with pungent fish sauce to produce a sticky, sweet and salty coating for the chicken. As soon as you taste it, you will wonder why the only thing you topped with caramel sauce in the past was ice cream.

For many years, I avoided using fish sauce because of the odor that could only be described as rancid. If you can get past the smell, you will find that the skunk of the cooking world mellows as it is simmered and combined with other flavors. I promise. In fact, I was enamored with the effects of this sauce that I added it to my Crockpot Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs in Tomato & Red Wine Sauce and was rewarded with one of the best tomato sauces to come out of my kitchen.

The recipe:

Heat a large straight-sided skillet over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup granulated 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 1/2 cup 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 3 tablespoons canola oil in the skillet. Add 1/2 cup medium onion, finely chopped, and 1/2 cup peeled ginger (cut into matchsticks). Cook for 1 minute. Add 2 sliced garlic cloves 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 3 pounds bone-in, skinless chicken thighs (well-trimmed of fat) that have been generously seasoned with kosher salt. 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, 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fish sauce, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes. 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.

Other recipes using a Vietnamese caramel sauce:

White on Rice Couple’s Caramel Pork Braised Pork Belly Banh Mi
Rasa Malaysia’s Caramel Shrimp (Vietnamese Tom Rim)
Ravenous Couple’s Vietnamese Braised Fish in a Claypot (Ca Kho To)
Wandering Chopsticks’ Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs (Thit Heo Kho Trung)

Vietnamese Caramel Ginger Chicken (Ga Kho) Recipe

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Vietnamese Caramel Ginger Chicken (Ga Kho) Recipe

From the kitchen of Cookin Canuck. www.cookincanuck.com

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled, and cut into matchsticks
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3 lb. bone-in, skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed, generously seasoned with kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp plus 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried red chile flakes
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Stir until the caramel dissolves, then pour it into a heatproof measuring cup or bowl.
  4. With hot water (so the leftover caramel bits don't seize up on the bottom of the pan), clean and dry the pan.
  5. Place the skillet over medium-high heat and heat canola oil in the skillet. Add onion and ginger. Cook for 1 minute.
  6. 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.
  7. To the skillet, add chicken thighs. Cook until the chicken no longer looks raw on the outside, about 2 minutes per side. Yes, the pan will be crowded!
  8. Add the reserved caramel sauce, fish sauce, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, black pepper, and chili flakes. 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.
  9. Stir in the reserved onions, ginger, and garlic and cook for 2 to 3 additional minutes.
  10. 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.

Notes

Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ren April 12, 2010 at 4:22 am

Looks amazing!

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2 Anh April 12, 2010 at 4:32 am

Lovely! Chicken braised with ginger is one of my favorite food combo! And of course, that caramel sauce is very very delicious!

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3 Bonnie April 12, 2010 at 4:51 am

I saw this recipe in Fine Cooking and printed the recipe but haven't made it yet. Now I think I must and soon. This chicken is beautiful and the photo tutorial is so helpful. We love Thai, and Vietnamese food at our house.

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4 Ravenous Couple April 12, 2010 at 6:00 am

your version looks finger licking delicious!! Thanks for the link! :)

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5 Jessica @ How Sweet April 12, 2010 at 10:49 am

That chicken looks delish! My hubby would love it.

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6 Brisbane Baker April 12, 2010 at 11:06 am

This dish has such interesting flavour combinations. I can imagine how it would taste like, but I think it may just be one of those dishes you have to taste before you really know.

None the lesss you still made me hungry :)

http://www.brisbanebaker.blogspot.com

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7 Andrew's Mom April 12, 2010 at 12:17 pm

That looks incredible. Going to try that this week.

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8 Kalyn April 12, 2010 at 1:27 pm

This looks delicious. I remember when I first tried Vietnamese Food, at Cafe Trang on main street in SLC (not there any more.) I still love the flavor combinations.

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9 Sandi April 12, 2010 at 2:11 pm

wow this looks wonderful…..I am definitely going to make this….there are so many things I want to make….LOL!!! thanks for sharing

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10 LilSis April 12, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Thighs are my favorite part of the chicken. These look amazing!

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11 Tracy April 12, 2010 at 3:21 pm

This looks wonderful! I've never tried Vietnamese food before.

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12 Jenny April 12, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Your recipes always look so incredible!! Love the looks of this dish!

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13 bunkycooks April 12, 2010 at 4:20 pm

What a beautiful dish! I love Vietnamese food. I enjoyed reading about the different flavors in Vietnamese cooking and how they blend together. I am with you on the fish sauce. It is pretty nasty stuff, but if you hold your nose and throw it in the pot/pan it will do wonders for so many dishes!

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14 Citrus Quark April 12, 2010 at 4:40 pm

cool post. i didn't know about the earth, fire, wind… thing. good to know, and thanks for the informative post.

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15 Grumpy & HoneyB April 12, 2010 at 5:21 pm

This looks absolutely amazing! It is a dish right up my alley…and we will be trying this one soon! I just hope the caramel sauce works out for me. I have had a rough time with it in the past.

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16 Grumpy & HoneyB April 12, 2010 at 5:21 pm

This looks absolutely amazing! It is a dish right up my alley…and we will be trying this one soon! I just hope the caramel sauce works out for me. I have had a rough time with it in the past.

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17 5 Star Foodie April 12, 2010 at 5:56 pm

This sure sounds like a must try! The caramel sauce with ginger is amazing!

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18 Cristie April 12, 2010 at 6:08 pm

You've done a beautiful job with this chicken. Thanks for sharing the recipe and know-how.

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19 Maggy April 12, 2010 at 6:59 pm

These are, without a doubt, on the menu for this week. YUM.

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20 Barbara @moderncomfortfood April 12, 2010 at 7:15 pm

A sensational looking recipe with a very intriguing combination of flavors. Many thanks for sharing.

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21 Trix April 12, 2010 at 8:27 pm

I love Vietnamese food! You're right, fish sauce is not shown to its best advantage when sniffed right from the bottle … not at all! But it gives dishes a really special something for sure.

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22 EMK April 12, 2010 at 9:39 pm

I love Vetnamese food but never cooked before. I've been avoiding fish sauce and that's the main reason I haven't touched any Vetnamese recipes. But now I feel like I want to try. Thanks for the great post!!

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23 pegasuslegend April 12, 2010 at 10:17 pm

this looks awesome I never had anything like cant wait to try this one~!

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24 Cookin' Canuck April 12, 2010 at 10:25 pm

I am glad so many of you find this as enticing as I did. This dish immediately became a family favorite.

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25 Fuji Mama April 12, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Such a great description of fish sauce, LOL! This looks fabulous–can't wait to try it!

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26 citronetvanille April 13, 2010 at 12:35 am

oh my goodness, this chicken looks amazing, the caramel color is gorgeous, I love vietnamese food, so many restaurants in Paris, not too many in SF though.

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27 redkathy April 13, 2010 at 12:42 am

Hey Darie this looks absolutely fabulous. Your instruction makes this chicken seem simple to prepare, which is hard to believe from the photo. I am going to try this very soon. Thanks.

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28 Barbara Bakes April 13, 2010 at 1:03 am

What a gorgeous color! It looks so sticky delicious!

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29 Divina Pe April 13, 2010 at 1:26 am

You're seducing me right now with this chicken dish. I love Vietnamese food and their combination of flavors.

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30 Brie: Le Grand Fromage April 13, 2010 at 1:30 am

yum, this dish looks so flavorful and tender!

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31 Chow and Chatter April 13, 2010 at 3:16 am

wow wonderful we go crazy for Vietnamese food

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32 sweetlife April 13, 2010 at 3:45 am

great dish..sticky fun..indeed

sweetlife

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33 Belinda @zomppa April 13, 2010 at 4:20 am

I can almost taste the flavors!

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34 My Little Space April 13, 2010 at 5:02 am

Yeah, this is a famous Vietnamese recipe. I'm going to give it a try too. I bet my son will love it.
Have a wonderful day!
Regards,
Kristy

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35 Sonia (Nasi Lemak Lover) April 13, 2010 at 5:32 am

Hi this is my 1st time here, all your dishes look great and delicious, I will come back more often to check what you cook. I love vietnamese food too.

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36 lisaiscooking April 13, 2010 at 12:25 pm

I've made a similar caramel sauce for chicken before and the flavor combination is so delicious! I'd love to learn more about Vietnamese cooking.

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37 Jessie April 13, 2010 at 1:45 pm

wow talk about a lot of flavors going on here, I can just feel my taste buds tingling!

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38 Mother Rimmy April 13, 2010 at 1:57 pm

What a beautiful dish. I always look forward to seeing what you're cooking next!

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39 MaryMoh April 13, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Mmm…looks delicious! I love that shiny look….finger-licking good. Vietnamese food is very delicious…one of my favourites.

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40 Dimah April 13, 2010 at 3:57 pm

This looks really tasty!

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41 Cherine April 13, 2010 at 4:20 pm

This looks so good!

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42 Cynthia April 13, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Wow this looks amazing! I love using caramel sauce in dishes and I absolutely adore Vietnamese food!

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43 LetMeEatCake Eat With Me! April 14, 2010 at 1:29 am

Thanks for breaking down Vietnamese cooking and sharing this recipe! Looks fantastic. I'm going to try it this week for dinner!

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44 LetMeEatCake Eat With Me! April 14, 2010 at 1:29 am

Thanks for breaking down Vietnamese cooking and sharing this recipe! Looks fantastic. I'm going to try it this week for dinner!

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45 Elin April 14, 2010 at 4:01 am

This is a great vietnamese dish and I would love to try this out :) Thanks CC for sharing this with us .

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46 Paula April 16, 2010 at 5:35 pm

oh, I looove such chicken! so delicious!

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47 Chef Dennis April 18, 2010 at 12:08 am

The glaze on this chicken looks sinfully good…..i can only imagine how good it tastes

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48 Peggy April 18, 2010 at 1:49 pm

these look pretty great! can't wait to try them!

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49 Tasty Eats At Home April 23, 2010 at 8:54 pm

I love these flavors. Sweet, salty, gingery, yum yum!

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50 sewa mobil di surabaya April 27, 2010 at 8:24 am

This is the most delicious looking meal I have seen in a LONG time.

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51 Anonymous February 2, 2011 at 7:52 pm

EXCELLENT RECIPE, EASY TO FOLLOW. THX. SO MUCH, MY FAMILY LOVES THIS DISH!

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52 mike April 8, 2011 at 8:54 am

Looks great! I love me some ginger chicken, yet I never cook it with a proper recipe. I usually wing it, so this’ll be a good one to try.

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53 Shalini December 26, 2011 at 2:31 am

I tried this recipe tonight and it was amazing! The most tastiest Asian meal I’ve ever cooked and my partner absolutely loved it. Thank you so much for your post, searched Foodgawker for a chicken/ginger combo, and your photograph looked the tastiest so I had to give it a go!

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54 Cyndy March 31, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Making this for the 2nd time. It is a very yummy dish!!
Thank you

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