As evidenced by my favourite sweet and our signature caramel, Soy & Sesame, combining sweet with savoury is one of my ideal things to eat. So this Vietnamese-inspired dish, where caramel is used in a savoury dish to bring a sweet balance to the saltiness and heat is a perfect, and regular, weeknight dinner.
Serves 3-4, depending on how many thighs you allow per person
8 chicken thighs (approx 900g though the weight isn't particularly important) - skinned, bone-in
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsp grated garlic
1 red chilli, sliced (depending on your heat preference, you can leave in the seeds)
4 tbsp sugar (I use golden caster sugar because I have infinite supply, but granulated or caster is absolutely fine)
1-2 tbsp rapeseed oil (or other flavourless oil)
500ml chicken stock
1 onion, cut into 8ths
Broccoli or other veg
Start by marinating your chicken. You can do this 24 hours in advance, or just before you eat (which is what I normally do, not normally being organised enough to remember to marinate the night before). Mix together in a large bowl the fish sauce, ginger, garlic, chilli and 1 tablespoon of the sugar, then add the skinless chicken and ensure it is well covered in the marinade.
When you’re ready to cook, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed casserole dish or saucepan. When hot, scrape off the excess marinade from your chicken thighs, and sear in the pan till they get some good colour. You don’t want too much of the ginger and garlic in the pan at this stage, as it will catch and burn, so if you can get as much off as possible (reserving it in the bowl) that’s best. You’ll probably need to do this in two stages so you get enough heat in the pan to colour the meat.
When the thighs have a nice colour, remove from the pan. Then add the 3 tablespoons of remaining sugar and watch this caramelise. Watch it carefully - it won’t take long and you want caramel not burnt caramel here - if you’re nervous just don’t have the heat up too high. When you have a lovely caramel, add the chicken stock, onion and return the chicken along with the remaining marinade to the pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.
Serve with some basmati rice and broccoli (or other veg of your choice). If you’re feeling fancy, a few fresh sliced red chillies and spring onions will liven it up.