Vietnamese Caramel Chicken

  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and halved crosswise
  • 7 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems
  • Serve with steamed rice and steamed green veggies (asparagus, broccoli, etc.)

1. Combine baking soda and 1 1/4 cups cold water in large bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Rinse chicken in cold water and drain well.

2. Meanwhile, combine sugar and 3 tablespoons water in small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat and cook, without stirring, until mixture begins to turn golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, gently swirling saucepan, until sugar turns color of molasses and registers between 390 and 400 degrees, 4 to 6 minutes longer. (Caramel will produce some smoke during last 1 to 2 minutes of cooking, but be sure not to burn it!). Immediately remove saucepan from heat and VERY carefully and slowly pour in 3/4 cup hot water (mixture will bubble and steam vigorously). When bubbling has subsided, return saucepan to medium heat and stir to dissolve caramel.

3. Transfer caramel to 12-inch skillet and stir in soy sauce, another 1/8 cup water, and ginger. Add chicken and bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until chicken is fork-tender and registers 205 degrees, 30 to 40 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through simmering. Transfer chicken to serving dish and cover to keep warm.

4. Bring remaining sauce to boil over medium-high heat and cook until reduced slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water together in small bowl, then whisk into sauce; simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Stir in pepper. Pour 1/4 cup sauce over chicken. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve, passing remaining sauce separately.