Vietnamese lemon grass and chilli chicken

Sat, Mar 7, 2015, 01:00

  • Serves: 4
  • Cooking Time: 30 mins
  • Course: Main Course
  • Cuisine: Thai/South-East Asian


  • Serves 4800g skinless boneless chicken thighs, or mini fillets
  • 2 lemon grass stalks
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar, to taste
  • 2 red chillies, halved, deseeded and shredded
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp groundnut or sunfl ower oil (or other oil of your choice)
  • 1 onion, halved, cut into slim crescent moon-shaped slices
  • 125ml chicken stock
  • Juice of half to one lime, more if needed
  • 2 tbsp sprigs of purple amaranth, or coriander (optional)
  • Half a tbsp of sesame seeds, to serve (optional)


I sometimes think I could live on Vietnamese food. I love the key flavours and I adore the balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet that is such a dominant characteristic. This is incredibly easy, somewhere between a stir-fry and a sauté, with just enough sauce to coat the pieces of chicken. Trim any fat from the thighs and cut the flesh into bite-sized pieces. Remove the coarse outer layers from the lemon grass and trim the top and base. Chop the rest – the softer bit – as finely as you can. Put half of this into a bowl with the fish sauce, caster sugar, half the chillies, all the garlic and the chopped chicken. Mix together with your hands, cover with cling film and put in the fridge. Leave to marinate for at least four hours; overnight is even better. Bring it to room temperature before cooking. Heat the oil in a wide-based saucepan or a wok set over a medium heat. Add the chicken and cook on all sides, getting a really good colour all over it. Add the reserved chillies, reserved lemon grass and the onion and stir-fry until the onion starts to soften. Be careful not to burn the chillies or the lemon grass. Pour in the stock, reduce the heat, cover and allow the chicken to cook for about five minutes.

Remove the lid, increase the heat and cook until the liquid is reduced. You want a mixture that is wetter than a stir-fry but drier than a braise. Add lime juice to taste, check for seasoning and sweet-sour balance, adjusting with sugar and lime. Sprinkle with the amaranth leaves or coriander and sesame seeds, and serve with brown rice and stir-fried greens.