These Caramelized Ginger Chicken Thighs Are On A Different Level

By Alex Chung

Senior Food Writer at Pro Home Cooks

In Vietnam, there is a popular dish called caramelized clay pot fish. It's made by caramelizing sugar in oil and then searing the marinated fish, usually catfish, in the caramelized sugar. It’s finished off by braising everything in coconut water, fish sauce and aromatics like green onion, ginger, and garlic. Although I’ve never had the opportunity to try it but hopefully one day I do, I was curious about the process of frying the sugar before frying the fish. I’ve seen this technique once before and it was when my aunt made her famous caribbean oxtails for christmas dinner that I absolutely love. So, naturally curiosity killed the cat and I had to try to make a version of caramelized clay pot fish at home.

To make this recipe more accessible for the average home cook, I decided to change the catfish for chicken thighs but as for the rest of the recipe, I tried to stay true to the original Vietnamese staple. The flavor profile was so nuanced yet comforting that I now understand why it's so beloved as a home cooked meal. Frying the sugar in oil, melted it down to its liquid stage as well as darkening its color to an amber. The process brought out the nutty and floral notes of the sugar. The abundance of aromatics like ginger, garlic, onions/shallots brought a familiar savory warmth and spice. Finishing everything off with a can of coconut water brought out a subtle sweetness to tie everything together. 

Caramelized Ginger Chicken Thighs


  • 2 tablespoon of oil
  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 pound of chicken thighs, boneless
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 1 large knob of ginger, sliced into thin match sticks
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 1 1/4 cups of coconut water
  • pinch of salt & pepper to taste
  • scallions to garnish


  1. Start by adding 2 tablespoons of oil to a large skillet and heat it on medium. Add in your sugar and stir until the sugar begins to melt. Keep stirring for a total of 2- 3 minutes, the brown sugar will darken in color. To avoid the sugar from burning while letting the flavors and color deepen constantly stir at medium heat.
  2. Add in your chicken thighs in a single layer, skin side down and let them sear for 2 minutes. Flip them over and then continue to let them cook for another 2 minutes. You really want to get some nice color on them!
  3. Next, add in the sliced onions, 2 finely diced cloves of garlic, and a ton of thinly sliced ginger. Toss to combine everything. Cook for 1 minute.
  4. Pour in the coconut water, fish sauce, sesame oil, a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook uncovered on medium high or 8-9 minutes or until your sauce become thick and glossy. Give it a taste, if you think you could use some salt & pepper add a bit in. If not, sprinkle on some scallion and serve with warm rice!
By Alex Chung

Senior Food Writer at Pro Home Cooks