What makes Vietnamese sweet and sour chicken different from Chinese sweet and sour chicken? It’s not the addition of pineapples or chilies. In fact, from what I’ve gathered, both are optional. It’s the presence of lemongrass and fish sauce that gives Vietnamese sweet and sour chicken a distinctive flavor. All the rest is the same. Chicken fillets cut into thin slices coated with starch and deep fried, then tossed with sweet and sour sauce.
Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Chicken
- 8 chicken thigh fillets
- 1 egg white beaten
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon lemongrass minced
- 2 tablespoons rice wine
- 1/2 cup tapioca starch or corn or potato starch (you may need more than 1/2 cup)
- 3 cups cooking oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- one-inch knob ginger minced
- 2 finger chilies sliced
- 2 shallots thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup sliced carrots
- 1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
Holding the knife at a 45-degree angle, cut the chicken fillets into slices about a quarter of an inch thick.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg white, fish sauce, lemongrass, rice wine and two tablespoons of starch. Add the chicken and mix well. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least an hour (overnight works best).
Heat the cooking oil in a wok or frying pan.
Separate the chicken pieces and toss each one in starch.
Over high heat, fry the chicken pieces in batches until lightly browned and crisp. If the chicken slices are thin enough, each batch should cook in no more than two to three minutes. Scoop out the chicken and drain on a stack of paper towels.
Pour off the oil leaving only about a tablespoonful. Reheat the oil and saute the garlic, ginger, chilies and shallots. Add the carrot slices and pineapple chunks. Stir fry for a minute.
Put the chicken back into the pan.
Pour in the sweet and sour sauce (recipe below). Toss everything together until everything is coated with the sauce.
Serve at once.
Sweet and Sour Sauce
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup fresh pineapple juice
- fish sauce to taste
Place all the ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to medium and continue boiling, uncovered, until reduced by half and thickened. The sauce will thicken some more as it cools so the moment it looks syrupy, turn off the heat.