At her Melbourne restaurants – fast-casual chain Pho Nom, boozy beer-hall Bia Hoi, and neon-lit pan-Asian city diner Annam – chef Jerry Mai draws on her Vietnamese heritage, but you’ll also spot influences from Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and beyond.
This recipe though, from her cookbook Street Food: Vietnam, is a home-style Vietnamese classic, and Mai’s go-to home comfort food. Eat it with a big bowl of fluffy jasmine rice, served piping hot, straight out of the steamer.
“My dad makes the best version of this. He rarely cooks, but when he does, he does it so well,” says Mai. “I remember standing on a stool by the stove as he talked me through cooking this dish, the importance of growing the ginger yourself and the fact that the chicken tastes better when it’s still on the bone.”
Braised Chicken in Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
1.8kg chicken, whole
2 tbsp vegetable oil
150g ginger, peeled then julienned
50g fine caster sugar, plus extra if needed
80ml fish sauce, plus extra if needed
1 tsp white pepper, ground
2 long red chillies, sliced
1 handful coriander leaves
Steamed jasmine rice, to serve
Using a cleaver or large knife, chop the chicken in half through the breastbone. Cut off the thighs, then break them down into 3–4 smaller pieces. Remove the chicken wings from the breast and cut off the tips. Finally, cut the breast into 5–6 pieces. (Your butcher could do this step for you.)
Place the oil and ginger in a large, deep frying pan and cook over medium heat. Cook the ginger for 5–7 minutes until golden brown, then remove from the oil and drain on paper towel. Set aside.
Add the sugar to the ginger-infused oil and cook over low heat, stirring continuously, for 7–10 minutes until the mixture turns a golden caramel. Take care not to burn the caramel, otherwise the dish will be bitter.
Add the chicken and stir quickly and continuously to ensure the chicken and caramel don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Reduce the heat to medium–low and add the ginger and fish sauce. Keep stirring the chicken to coat, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Check the seasoning and add more sugar and fish sauce if necessary.
Divide the chicken among serving bowls, sprinkle with white pepper and scatter the chilli and coriander over the top. Serve immediately with bowls of steamed rice.
Street Food: Vietnam is available to buy online