These Caramelized Ginger Chicken Thighs Are On A Different Level

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. 

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By Alex Chung

Senior Food Writer at Pro Home Cooks