Sunday, October 17, 2021

Cooking is Fun...and Easy! Vietnamese Baked Chicken with Cucumber and Red Onion Quick Pickle


So, the back story.  We went to our favorite dumpling joint yesterday (Pop-Up Dumpling House), which is inside an enormous international market in Albuquerque (Ta Lin Market).  We LOVE this place--you literally can find ingredients from every part of the world.  The aisles are labeled by a well-known city in the area.  So, for example, we get all our Puerto Rican ingredients on the aisle labeled "Havana".  You've got aisles for Bangkok, Milan, London, Manila, New Delhi, New Orleans, Saigon--you get the picture.  Pretty much every part of the world is represented.  So I say to hubs--well, if we are going down there, and I'm cooking on Sunday, let's do something new.  We took a chicken out of the freezer, and I started hunting a recipe that wouldn't scare Mom off, lol.  If you don't have an Asian market in your town, you can find most of this at your standard grocery and the more specialty items on Amazon.

So here you have it.  There are actually two recipes here--one for the chicken, from Emily and Matt Clifton over at Serious Eats.  The other is a riff on a quick Asian cucumber pickle recipe from VC in the Kitchen.  Add some jasmine rice, and you've got a lovely dinner.  The chicken can be marinated for up to 4 hours, and the pickles can be prepared a day ahead.  This morning, I'm going to do the pickles, so let's start there.

Ingredients and Tools

Kosher Salt
2 English Cucumbers or 4 Persian Cucumbers
1/2 large red onion
1/2 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons honey
1 tsp. (or to taste) crushed red pepper or chili garlic paste or sambal oelek

How To

A mandolin really does the best job getting the cucumbers and onion sliced super thin.  You can do it with a knife, but it's tedious.  Highly recommend getting one--super useful and most take up very little space.  Always, always, always use the guard and if you can't (like with a persian cucumber, where a metal glove.  These things are super sharp!  Wash cucumbers and pat dry, thinly slice into a colander.  Sprinkle with about 1 tsp of kosher salt and toss.  Let drain in the sink for about 30 minutes.  Slice red onion, add to cucumbers and toss. 

Whisk rice wine vinegar, honey, and sambal oelek (what I'm using, but see above) in a bowl, pour over cucumbers and onions, and toss.  Cover with a tight fitting lid (I use a Pyrex covered bowl for this) and pop in the fridge.  Toss every couple of hours until time to eat.

These are also phenomenal in salads, on sandwiches, and with tacos.  You might want to try VCs Slow Cooker Korean Beef Tacos recipe--I know I'm going to! 

Now for the chicken.  I'm going to plan on about a 2 hour marinade for this, and instead of using just chicken thighs, I'm going to be using a whole chicken cut up, which is what I have.   


  • 1 smaller whole chicken, cut up (mine was 3 lbs, once stockpot parts were discarded, about 2 lbs of breasts, legs, and thighs)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (we love Kimlan) 
  • 1/4 cup Asian fish sauce, such as Red Boat (well, I wanted Red Boat, but all they had was the restaurant size for $40, so, no.  We went with Squid Brand, which has worked perfectly well for us in the past)
  • 1/4 cup (55g) palm or dark brown sugar (I was actually able to get palm sugar, more than I'll need in a lifetime, I'm sure.  It comes in hard disks, which you can use a box grater to grate off the amount you need--which is why I left the grams--a kitchen scale is a great thing to have).  One and 1/3 disk, grated = 1/4 cup
  • 2 tablespoons avocado or other neutral oil 
  • 2 packed tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh juice from 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated zest from 1 lime 
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons hot chile paste (sambal oelek) 
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced or grated (about 2 teaspoons)
  • Sliced limes and cilantro leaves, for garnish

Placed chicken parts in large zipper lock bag.  Whisk together soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, oil, cilantro, lime juice, lime zest, ginger, sambal oelek, and garlic in a bowl, pour into bag with chicken.  Seal tightly.  Shake around to get the chicken parts coated, place in refrigerator for up to 4 hours (longer, and the lime will begin to have a negative effect on the chicken).  Minimum 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°F and set oven rack to middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top. Take chicken out of the bag, let marinade drip off, and place on wire rack, spaced well apart, skin side up. 

Pour remaining marinade into a saucepan.  Bake until thickest part of thighs and breasts register 165°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 30-35 minutes for these smallish pieces.  (Hot tip:  I recently invested in an instant-read thermometer, $15 on Amazon and worth its weight in gold, no more guessing if something is done enough!)  Meanwhile, bring marinade up to a boil and reduce to simmer, reduce the mixture by at least half to make a sauce (either for dipping or for pouring over your rice).

If chicken skin is not brown and crisp enough by the time the pieces are cooked through, set broiler to high and broil until browned and crisp, about 1 minute, being careful not to burn the skin. I didn't have to do this--the skin was lovely, brown, and crispy.  Remove to a platter and let rest for a few minutes, while you plate up jasmine rice sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds, and your cucumber salad.  Serve with sauce on the side.  Garnish with lime and cilantro.  Serves 4.

This was a giant hit--definitely going in the rotation.  Absolutely outstanding.  Mom loved it, Hubs loved it, and contrary to the way it reads, it was super easy to do. 

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