Eating fresh and healthy food as a family doesn’t have to mean boring. We love oriental style meals in this house as they always offers lots of flavour and often without too much effort. Home cooked oriental food is always better and so much healthier than a take-away. One of my favourites is this Vietnamese street food inspired dish of grilled chicken with rice and pickled veggies. The Vietnamese version almost always uses pork and noodles but I use chicken for a healthier option and I think rice works better than noodles in this dish so rice it is. I also use different herbs and spices than the traditional so you could say this is my take on a Vietnamese classic.
Once you try this dish, I promise you will never look back. How can ingredients like the ones pictured above be anything but flavourful? The grilled chicken in the dish is just delicious and all the other flavours come together to make for an absolutely beautiful bowl of food. What’s more this dish is versatile and can be adapted for different tastes within a family – if you want to go low carb, leave out the rice and have it on a bed of salad or if you’re eating really healthy use brown rice. Also the toppings are all optional so everybody can choose what they want on their dish. The dish takes a little effort to prep but you can strip it down for a quicker meal or go the whole hog when you have a bit more time. Like the pickled veg for instance – you can serve it with just freshly sliced veg instead of pickling when time is short.
VIETNAMESE GRILLED CHICKEN AND RICE RECIPE
For the marinade:
700gms boneless & skinless chicken thighs
2-3 shallots very finely chopped
3 garlic cloves minced (add more or less depending on taste)
2 stalks fresh lemon grass lightly bruised and very finely chopped
50gms granulated sugar
2 tbs fish sauce
1.5 tbs dark soy sauce (the dark soy is important as it’s a lot thicker than usual soy)
1.5 tbs sesame oil
generous amount of freshly ground pepper
2-3 tbs toasted sesame seeds
handful of chopped coriander
3-4 thinly sliced spring onions (topped with 2 tbs hot olive oil and a pinch of salt and sugar)
1-2 sliced red chilies (optional)
2 x 3 inch piece of cucumber cut in to matchsticks
2 x 3 inch piece of carrot cut in to matchsticks
250ml warm water
40ml white vinegar (add more if you like a sharper taste)
1 tbs sugar
½ tsp salt
200-250gms basmati rice cooked as per packet instructions
Start by marinating the chicken thighs. Just trim any big pieces excess fat but leave a little on as you don’t want the chicken to dry out when it’s cooked. Cut in to large-ish bite size pieces. Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl and add the chicken to this. Give it a very good mix and leave to marinate for at least 1.5-2 hours or longer.
For the picked veg, take a jar and combine the warm water, vinegar, sugar and salt stirring till the sugar is dissolved. Add the matchstick veg and leave to pickle. Even an hour or two will do for light pickling. I don’t like a sharp taste (I prefer a bit more sweetness) so I put very little vinegar but you can adjust quantities to your own taste. The best way to find the perfect quantities for you is to taste the pickling liquid before you put the veg in so you know exactly how sharp/sweet/salty it is.
Chop and prepare all the toppings if you haven’t done so yet. For the sesame seeds toast them lightly in a dry frying pan over a moderate heat. Move them around with a wooden spoon to make sure they toast evenly. Keep an eye on the seeds as once they start browning they can burn very easily. Once they’re lightly browned, take them off the heat and out of the frying pan immediately otherwise they will continue to cook.
That’s all the prep done! When you’re ready to eat cook the rice and place the chicken under a hot grill. You can also skewer the chicken and cook over a barbecue. It’s even more delicious but a grill works well too. Turn the chicken once – around halfway through cooking. The chicken will take around 10-15 minutes to cook and will come out all dark and beautifully caramelised. Scoop some rice in to a bowl, top with the chicken and the pickled veg. Then generously scatter some sesame seeds, coriander, spring onions and chilies (if using) and eat!
This Vietnamese grilled chicken and rice recipe is one of my favourite mid-week family dinners and it’s also a very tasty one dish meal to serve when you have a few friends over as it appeals to adults and kids. What’s more, kids love being given all the bits of the dish and building their own. Try it and you won’t regret it!
*I’ve linked up to Honest Mum’s Tasty Tuesdays.