Ginger chicken is a dish of Asian origin. There are several versions of this recipe and today, I am sharing the Vietnamese version called gà kho gừng.
In Vietnamese, gà means chicken, kho means simmered and gừng is none other than ginger.
What is kho?
In Vietnam, the term kho defines a cooking technique. Kho literally means simmering, braising or soldering.
Kho defines a number of dishes in Vietnamese cuisine, that are characterized by slow cooking ingredients in a thick sauce, slightly sweet, sometimes red-brown, containing caramelized sugar and the ubiquitous fish sauce called nuoc mam.
Bò kho thịt bò kho (stewed beef) is the most common variant, a beef stew with noodles.
Kho is therefore mainly prepared with pieces of beef, fish, chicken or pork, but vegetarian versions are also possible. The fish version is called cá kho or cá kho tộ, the term tộ is for the earthenware vessel in which it is prepared. Catfish is the most used fish for this recipe, especially in southern Vietnam. The pork version is called thịt lợn kho gừng or thịt lợn với gừng.
Kho is usually cooked in a clay pot called nồi đất. It is served with steamed or grilled white rice, or with a hot French baguette.
Vietnamese cuisine is rich in at least 500 traditional dishes. The Vietnamese attach great importance to the preparation of food and the composition of dishes, harmonizing flavors and colors, in perfect cohesion with one of their most famous proverbs: “one must learn to eat before learning how to speak”.
Vietnamese cuisine has been characterized by the history of the country: The millennial Chinese regime of northern Vietnam until the 9th century, the French colonization of 1860 to 1954 and the American presence from 1960 to 1975, with events that tormented and created many victims, but also created a fantastic cuisine.
The traditional Vietnamese cuisine is tasty, light and healthy. It is divided into three regions: north, center and south. Northern Vietnam is the most populous region of the country where some of the most famous dishes, such as the national dish, the noodle soup called phở, were born.
In central Vietnam, the food is spicier and a meal often consists of several side dishes.
In the south of the country, cooking is largely influenced by the times of French domination.
Northern cuisine has a Chinese influence and is described as being stronger and saltier, i.e. with more abundant use of concentrated fish sauce and soy, while in southern cuisine, coconut and sugar are common ingredients.
The most important ingredients of Vietnamese cuisine are rice and noodles. As a flavor, fish sauce is used extensively, but also soy, ginger, lemongrass, chili, lots of fresh herbs, shrimp paste, star anise, cloves, kaffir lime leaves, onion and garlic.
On the coast, fish and seafood are the most consumed. Inland, meat dishes are preferred, including beef and poultry.
Vietnam is one of the few Asian countries where ordinary white bread is found, a legacy of the era when a French colony lived in Indochinese times. But countries such as China, India and Thailand have also left their mark on the menus.
The banh mi is a remarkable example of aboriginal cuisine. It is a sandwich of crunchy vegetables and meat.
In addition to beef, pork and chicken cooked in many different ways, there are also exotic meats such as cobra, bats, and eels.
The history of chicken and hen
But let’s talk about a good chicken! Have you ever wondered how and when the chicken arrived on our plates?
There is evidence that Chinese and Egyptians raised poultry 3,500 years ago. However, without any written record but of oral tradition, this may have been the case in India more than 5,000 years ago. The chicken was then introduced to Greece by the Persians.
There are now 60 breeds and 175 varieties of chickens all derived from the red junglefowl, native to Southeast Asia, where it can still be found as a wild animal today.
In the seventeenth century, Henry IV, King of France, said of the famous poule au pot (stewed hen): “I do not want such a poor peasant in my kingdom that he doesn’t have poule au pot every Sunday.” In a saucepan full of water, an old laying hen at the end of his career is simmered, which is set to cook for ten hours to soften it. Some bone marrow and vegetables that are available that day are added, to obtain a broth of unsuspected richness that was served with meat and vegetables.
In the 17th century, roosters were first domesticated for cockfighting rather than as a source of food. Then, when these fights became illegal in the seventeenth century in the West, people became passionate about the exhibitions, where they came to show and see the specimens of exotic species that had been brought from the end of the world, or cross-bred.
It was not until the 1920s that we saw the production of factory chickens, first in Britain, and then in the United States. At that time, hens were not yet raised specifically for their meat, but for their eggs. When they were not productive enough, they were slaughtered to sell their meat. However, by the 1950s, chicken farms for the meat market would outnumber those of laying hens.
At the end of the 20th century, more chicken meat was consumed in the West than any other animal, including beef, which had always been the first. It is thanks to the red junglefowl that we eat chicken today. It is a species of bird, from which all breeds of chickens and domestic chickens from the world are born. Its scientific name is Gallus gallus.
Its story is very interesting because it is considered as the ancestor of all modern roosters and chickens; and at first it was just a little wild rooster.
It is supposed that it was from Asia that the red junglefowl and its very first descendants were taken to the European continent.
There are several subspecies of the red junglefowl, which do not all live in the same place:
– Gallus gallus bankiva, from Bali, Java and Sumatra
– Gallus gallus gallus, from Cambodia and southern Vietnam
– Gallus gallus jabouillei, from northern Vietnam and southern China
– Gallus gallus murghi, from northern India
– Gallus gallus spadiceus, from Burma, northern Laos, Thailand and Malaysia.
To prepare the gà kho gừng, the chicken can be used whole, or cut into pieces, with or without the bones, but it is more common to use thighs which are a more tasty and more suitable part for a simmered dish. The bones give flavor to the sauce, the skin preserves the tenderness of the meat. The chosen piece, which may be even breast, is really according to everyone’s taste.
The gà kho gừng is a dish full of flavors, very simple and quick to prepare. Plain delicious!
- 4 chicken thighs
- 4 chicken legs
- 3 cloves garlic , chopped
- 2 shallots , chopped
- 1 (3-inch) piece ginger , cut in very thin julienne
- 3 tablespoons nuoc mâm (fish sauce)
- 3 teaspoons brown sugar
- 3 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1 small red hot pepper , very thinly sliced
- ½ cup boiling water
- 2 stalks Chinese chive
- Black pepper
In a bowl, mix the nuoc mâm and sugar until completely dissolved.
In a large salad bowl, place the pieces of chicken, pour the nuoc mâm + sugar mixture over the chicken, add the shallots and the garlic.
Marinate for 30 minutes.
In a wok, heat the oil.
Brown the chicken pieces with all the marinade over high heat for 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat, cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes.
Add the ginger and red hot pepper and mix gently.
Increase the heat for 5 minutes then add the boiling water.
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes over medium-low heat.
At this point, the sauce should be reduced. If this is not the case, increase the heat and continue cooking for a few more minutes.
Season with black pepper and sprinkle with Chinese chives.
Serve with fragrant white rice.