Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken
This bright marinade is the perfect mix of salty, sweet, umami deliciousness.
There is something so comforting about Vietnamese lemongrass chicken. I had never been treated to this delightful recipe growing up, but when I moved to Honolulu it was like… Baby, where have you been my whole life?! Seriously, I remember where I was sitting when I took my first bite. Is that weird? Foodies, you get me, right?
Lemongrass chicken is delicious served in a bánh mì — a Vietnamese sandwich made with French baguette, slathered with mayo and stuffed with cilantro and crunchy pickled veggies, cucumbers, and jalapeño. It is all of my loves in one: carbs, veggies, umami flavor. This became a staple of my college diet.
I am ashamed to admit that it was another several years until I saw lemongrass stalks in the grocery store and worked up the guts to try making it on my own. Let me tell you this: I deeply regret waiting so long to try making this at home.
Yes, there are several ingredients in this lemongrass chicken marinade. But after you’ve done all the measuring and minimal chopping, you just have to throw the ingredients in the food processor! (Or blender, in my case, because I’m ballin’ on a budget and can’t justify buying two appliances that do essentially the same thing. But I digress.)
Vietnamese lemongrass chicken is often made with chicken thighs or breasts, but be sure to pound them thin before marinating! This is a key step. In the photos, you might be able to see that I used chicken tenders. Honestly, this is because I am lazy and like that they are pre-cut, and easy to drop on top of rice or in a sandwich. If I don’t have to slice the chicken with a knife, it is also fewer steps from plate to my mouth when they are hot off the stove.
This recipe also calls for cooking the chicken stovetop, which is my favorite way to cook marinated meats because you have more control over flipping to meat and getting that gooey marinade to caramelize beautifully on top of your protein. But you can totally grill or bake your chicken. It’s whatever you prefer.
My mom is Irish, so when I was growing up, lemongrass wasn’t really a thing in our household. There were, however, LOTS of potatoes. Anyway, if your background is anything like mine, you might want to learn more about the key players in this dish:
Lemongrass: Tastes much like it smells. The stalks of the plant kinda resemble scallions. And also kinda like scallions, you’ll want to peel off and discard the papery, dry outer layers.
Fish sauce: Basically anchovy juice. It’s a thin liquid made from salty, fermented fish. The fish smell is very strong when you first add it to a dish, but don’t be alarmed. It packs the most delicious umami punch and makes an incredible condiment that’s great in marinades and sauces. I even throw it in my homemade barbecue sauce. It is good for all sorts of things and worth keeping a bottle in your fridge at all times.
Oyster sauce: A thick, deep brown condiment made from oysters. You might have had it atop specialty sushi rolls — it resembles balsamic vinegar glaze. Still smells a bit fishy, but the flavor is quite sweet.
You will certainly recognize the other stars of this marinade: brown sugar (way too good with fish sauce), sesame oil, soy sauce, lime, ginger, garlic and white onion. If you like a little kick, throw in some Sriracha to taste.
Consider serving this with rice, in a sandwich or on some sort of kabob situation (note to self: have to try that!) You can also check out my rice bowl inspired by the bánh mì here:
Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken
- 2 pounds chicken tenders or chicken breasts/thighs, pounded to about one inch thick
- 3 stalks lemongrass
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 inch ginger, peeled
- 1/2 white or spring onion
- 3 tbs brown sugar
- 1 limes, juiced
- 1 tbsp. oyster sauce
- 2.5 tbsp. fish sauce
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil
- 1.5 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. mirin
- sriracha, to taste
- Peel the dry, outer layers of the lemongrass. Chop stalks into quarters.
- Combine all ingredients into a food processor (or blender) and process until fully combined.
- Marinate chicken for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Marinating overnight ensures the best flavor.
- Heat oil in a pan on medium high. When hot, add chicken tenders and cook for a few minutes on each side, until outside is caramelized and inside is fully cooked.If using chicken breast/thigh, cook for at least five minutes, then flip over and cook for at least 5 more minutes.
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