Earlier this year, we ate at The Slanted Door, Charles Phan’s famous Vietnamese restaurant. The Lovely and I ate at the bar, had some delicious oysters and shared a few other plates as we ate and drank our way through the entire Ferry Building. Going to The Slanted Door was a near pilgrimage for us because we have been making this dish of his forever.
I first made this black pepper chicken thigh recipe around 1998 and have likely made it over 150 times. It is a great introduction to the hot, sour, salty sweet flavors of Vietnamese food. It can also be made in 30 minutes and many of the ingredients are pantry staples. Fish Sauce is available in most big supermarkets, however buy it at an Asian market if you can, It is much less expensive, and likely more authentic. I use exactly two medium serrano peppers, sliced longways and leave the seeds in. Sometimes, depending on the potency of the serrano, It can render the dish really spicy. Experiment with the amount of peppers to adjust to your own heat tolerances. I like hot food, but cannot tolerate it as much as the Lovely, so I suspect 2 serranos is a good starting point. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs work perfectly in this dish because the sauce needs a solid 15-20 minutes to cook down to a syrupy consistency. Be patient!
Recipe. Serves four.
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 plus two tablespoons cup fish sauce (I use 3 crabs brand)
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 serrano chiles, sliced lengthwise, seeds and ribs left in
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
one pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into one inch pieces
steamed jasmine rice
In a bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients, and stir well to disolve the sugar.
In a deep skillet, heat the oil and add the sliced shallot. When the shallot is wilted, add the fish sauce mixture and the chicken and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes on medium high heat until the sauce is thick, like pancake syrup.
Serve with the steamed jasmine rice. An oaky California Chardonnay pairs well, as does a dry Riesling.