|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 73g||93%|
|Saturated Fat 19g||93%|
|Total Carbohydrate 26g||10%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||6%|
|Total Sugars 11g|
|Vitamin C 67mg||337%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
It is curious how one finds the basic sweet and sour dish in the cuisine of every Southeast Asian country. Filipinos have escabeche; the Thai have their pad preow wan wai (they even have a name for their sweet and sour sauce—nam jim priao wan); the Malaysians have a cooking style known as masak blandah/belanda, and there’s this Vietnamese sweet and sour chicken dish with lemongrass and tamarind.
Unlike the basic Chinese sweet and sour sauce that is made by combining vinegar and sugar, the sweet and sour sauce of this chicken dish is made by mixing together sugar and tamarind juice. Yes, it is still sweet and sour but the tamarind gives the sauce a fruity and richer flavor that vinegar does not have.
"This was very good! The chicken was spicy, sour, and slightly sweet, and delicious with rice." —Diana Rattray
12 chicken thigh fillets, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 heaping tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 red chile peppers, finely chopped
2 green finger chiles, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 stalks lemongrass, white parts only, finely sliced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 medium red bell pepper, cored and sliced, or 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
3 to 4 tablespoons tamarind extract or paste, or to taste
Fresh Vietnamese cilantro (sometimes called Vietnamese mint), or cilantro leaves, for garnish
Gather the ingredients.
In a bowl or resealable plastic bag, place chicken, sugar, fish sauce, chiles, garlic, pepper, and lemongrass. Mix well and leave to marinate in fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Heat vegetable oil in a wok or frying pan over medium-high heat. Strain chicken, reserving any marinade, and lightly brown in the hot oil.
Add the carrot slices (or diced bell pepper) and cook for another 30 seconds.
Pour in marinade, broth, and tamarind extract (or paste). Stir well. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve hot with rice.
There are many ways to get the tamarind you'll need to make this dish.
- If you have access to fresh tamarind, rinse them and boil in just enough water to cover until mushy. Mash the softened tamarinds, strain and use the extracted juice.
- Dried tamarinds sold in Asian stores must be soaked in hot water to soften. Discard the water, mash the tamarinds and use the extract.
- Conveniently, you can buy tamarind paste sold in jars in Asian stores. Note, however, that this prepared tamarind paste has sugar in it and is not as sour as tamarind extract. It is also darker. You may need to use a lot of tamarind paste to get the desired level of sourness and that means that the cooked dish will also be darker.
- Tamarind concentrate is another way to buy tamarind. To reconstitute, add 2 tablespoons of water for each tablespoon of tamarind concentrate.
- Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of minced shallot or green onion to the pan and sauté along with the chicken pieces.
- Replace the brown sugar with honey or another sweetener.
Is There a Substitute for Lemongrass?
Lemongrass imparts lemony flavor with a hint of ginger and mint. You can try to use a combination of lemon and lime zest, but it will not truly replicate the flavors of lemongrass. If you can't find fresh lemongrass, look for it in frozen, paste or dried form.