Spicy Chicken with Lemongrass – Ga Xao Xa Ot
One of the things I remember vividly while growing up was my mother cooking all sorts of delicious traditional Vietnamese dishes in the kitchen. The house would be filled with the smells of sauteing onions and garlic mixed with the soft fragrance of white jasmine rice.
Of the dishes that she has made, this is by far one of my favorites. Traditionally made straight up with just chicken, lemongrass, and full Serrano chilies, Mom has had to dial down the spiciness of this dish for my weaker palette (as compared to the real deal Asians out there who can eat chilies raw…ahem…Mom!). So while this recipe below is not the true traditional preparation, it still captures the essence of the dish without burning off the outer layers of the tongue.
As I’ve grown up and tried to expand my cooking repertoire, one of the things that I’ve come to learn is that when it comes to Vietnamese cooking, there is no such thing as a recipe…but rather, principles to cooking and that each finished dish is adjusted to suit that particular family’s tastes and preferences. So when I asked my Mom how to make this, there really wasn’t much to go over on the phone.
What this translated to me was that I had to ask Mom to come over and make this dish for me 1 more time so I could watch her…LIKE A HAWK! And watch her I did…armed with my notebook and trusty camera, I give you Ga Xao Xa Ot!
The pleasant spiciness of this dish is tempered well in each bite with the fresh zing of the lemongrass. The fish sauce used to finish off the dish lends a very authentic Vietnamese aspect to it and shouldn’t be omitted unless you’re absolutely adverse to nuoc mam. I would recommend pairing this up with fresh white jasmine rice as it presents a nice complement to the bold flavors found here.
Ga Xao Xa Ot
As envisioned by TastyDesu (and Mom)
1lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup lemongrass, about 2 stalks, chopped very finely in a food pro***
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 serrano chili, minced fine
2 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoon olive oil
cilantro for garnish
Heat oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Add garlic and onions and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add lemongrass and continue to saute 1 more minute. Add chicken and saute until no longer pink. Add salt, pepper, sugar, soy sauce, chili powder, paprika, and serrano to pot and mix well. Continue cooking, when chicken starts to brown, add nuoc mam. Cook until chicken is brown and breaks apart easily with a chopstick. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with cilantro and serve with white rice.
***Note: For the lemongrass, I usually purchase mine frozen, but already finely cut up, from the freezer section at the local asian market. It cuts down on the prep time tremendously.