Vietnamese Coconut Caramel Chicken - 7 ingredient magic. The coconut fragrance is heavenly! www.recipetineats.com
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4.92 from 57 votes

Vietnamese Coconut Caramel Chicken

The chicken version of the wildly popular Vietnamese Caramel Pork! It's saucier and made with coconut milk so it has a gorgeous coconut fragrance. It's sweet with savoury undertones, looks thoroughly unimpressive while cooking but then magically transforms in the last 5 minutes. Recipe VIDEO below.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time55 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Servings: 4 - 5 people
Calories: 555
Author: Nagi

Ingredients

  • 4 large / 5 small chicken thighs , bone in skin on (Note 1)
  • 1/2 cup / 80 g brown sugar , loosely packed
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 400 g / 14 oz coconut milk , low fat (1 can) (Note 2)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce (Note 3)
  • 2 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar (or cider vinegar)
  • 2 garlic cloves , minced
  • 1 eschallot / French onion , finely sliced (Note 4)
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper (or black)

Garnishes (optional):

  • 1 shallot , finely sliced (green onion / scallion)
  • 1 large red chilli , finely sliced

Instructions

  • Place sugar and water in a skillet over medium heat. Stir, then when it bubbles and the sugar is melted (it looks like caramel), add the rest of the ingredients except chicken.
  • Stir, then put the chicken in SKIN SIDE DOWN.
  • Adjust the heat so it is simmering energetically. Not rapidly, not a slow simmer (I use medium high heat on a weak stove, medium on a strong stove).
  • After 25 minutes, turn the chicken.
  • After another 25 minutes, the fat should separate from the sauce and turn a pale brown (see video).
  • Turn chicken so the skin side is down. Move it around so the sauce doesn't catch on the bottom of the skillet and to brown the skin.
  • Once sauce and skin is brown, remove from heat.
  • Place chicken on serving plates, spoon over some sauce (don't need much, chicken is infused with flavour + sauce is strong).
  • Garnish with shallots and chilli, if using. Serve with rice.

Notes

1. I used 4 x 250g / 8 oz ones in the video which are larger than I like. I prefer using 5 x 200g / 6.5 oz thighs. Bone in, skin on is best because the skin goes golden and also is cooked to be tender by the time the liquid reduces down.
To make this with SKINLESS, BONELESS THIGHS, cut the thighs in half then proceed with recipe. Take the chicken out at 35 / 40 minutes when it is tender but before it is fall apart. Once the fat separates from the sauce (see video) and is starting to brown, put the chicken back in to brown it and coat in sauce. You won't get quite the same browning on the chicken as with skin on thighs.
BREAST: I don't recommend breast because it can't be cooked for long to infuse it with flavour like thigh. However, if you are really keen to try this with breast (and you will get the beautiful sauce on both sides of the breast) this is how I would do it: pound breast to 2cm / 4/5″ thick, then cook each side just for 4 minutes each in the braising liquid. Then remove, reduce liquid until the fat separates (at the end in the video) then put it back in just to brown each side. 
2. Full fat is also fine. Can't taste the difference in flavour, just don't need the extra fat.
3. Fish sauce has more complex flavours than soy sauce, and it won't taste fishy by the end of the cook time. For LOW SODIUM, sub with low sodium soy.
4. Eschallots look like baby onions and they are finer so they disintegrate in the sauce. You can sub with 1/4 normal onion finely chopped.
5. AUTHENTICITY: This is recipe is adapted from Vietnamese Caramel Pork which is an authentic Vietnamese recipe. So it's not strictly authentic - as far as I know. :)
6. Nutrition per serving, assuming this is made with 5 x 200g / 6.5 oz bone in thighs. The calories will be quite a bit higher than the actual because as you will see in the video, the fat separates and you avoid it when spooning the sauce over the chicken. You can even drain it off.

Nutrition

Serving: 336g | Calories: 555kcal