I remember when, many years ago, I got my first whiff of fermented fish sauce. It was one of the most disgusting smells I had ever encountered in a kitchen and there was no way I would ever put something this vile into my food !
Forward a few years. Fish sauce (and it’s cousin, shrimp paste) has become a permanent staple in my cup board. I use it for many of my favorite asian dishes, although I still don’t use it as a dipping sauce. In this dish, it is one of the three seasoning pillars . Fish sauce, caramel sauce and ginger play the major part, while garlic, salt and pepper play second fiddle. If you are not used to using fish sauce or shrimp paste, just don’t smell it before you cook it. Once you add it to your food and cook it for a while, it transforms itself into pure magic, giving the final product great flavor and debt. ( Umami, if you must
Chicken, thigh’s slashed to the bone
Caramel sauce, see below *
Pearl onion, blanched
Chiles, mixed colors, whole
Cilandro, coarsely chopped
Black pepper, fresh ground
Peanut oil, to saute
Season chicken with salt and black pepper and saute until golden brown on both sides. Remove onto absorbent paper. Saute pearl onions and chilies. Remove to absorbent paper. Saute sliced onions, garlic and ginger until translucent. Add vinegar, caramel, and all seasoning. Add chicken and slowly simmer until chicken is cooked through and sauce has reduced enough to cover the chicken. If the sauce becomes too thick before he chicken is cooked all the way, add a bit of water. If the sauce is too thin when the chicken is done, remove chicken and reduce until desired texture is achieved. At this point, strain the sauce if you like it smooth, otherwise, serve it more rustic with all the bits and pieces still in the sauce. Now, return the chicken, whole chiles and pearl onions. Simmer for another minute while basting the chicken to make sure it is well covered in sauce. To serve, add chicken to plate, cover with remaining sauce, top with chilis, onions, cilantro and lime wedges.
Bon Appetit ! Life is Good !
* Saute sugar until lightly browned. Add water. If you have not done this before – BE VERY CAREFUL ! This splashes easily and burns right throuhg your skin if you are not careful. I suggest to put the pot into the sink and open the waterspout just a bit while keeping your head as far away as possible Stir until smooth and all sugar is desolved. You should now have a light brown liquid. If the sugar solidified, don’t worry. Just put it back on low heat, stir frequently and simmer until all solids are liquified.