Vietnamese Caramel Chicken with Ginger

Chicken thighs braised in a sweet and sticky Vietnamese-style caramel sauce. This Vietnamese Caramel Chicken with Ginger is delicious served with steamed rice. Recipe with step-by-step photos.

vietnamese caramel chicken in large skillet

Vietnamese Caramel Chicken

If you grew up in a Vietnamese household, you would probably recognise this dish well. Caramel Chicken, or Ga Kho, is a popular and tasty Vietnamese home-cooking dish; I’m not sure you would find it in many restaurants.

My mother used to cook Caramel Chicken at least once a week; it was a quick and easy way to get dinner on the table, and it was also economical in that the recipe uses simple pantry ingredients (that you would find in every Vietnamese kitchen), and served simply with steamed rice.

Caramel Chicken might be old-school Vietnamese cooking, but this dish evokes comfort and nostalgia for me.

Caramel Chicken with Ginger

One of my favourite versions of Caramel Chicken includes ginger, called Ga Kho Gung in Vietnamese.

Thin matchstick slices of ginger are added to the sauce, which cook down and become soft, sweet and caramelised in the sauce.

Ginger is an anti-inflammatory ingredient, and my mother used to always cook with ginger to give the immune system a boost.

vietnamese caramel chicken in white skillet with coriander

Caramel Chicken Recipe

Growing up, my mother always made Caramel Chicken with chicken wings which she would chop up into smaller pieces. The chicken wing pieces were small, so they cooked fairly quickly, and they also had the advantage of being small enough to eat with chopsticks.

Unfortunately, my French husband is not so keen on eating tiny pieces of chicken wings with chopsticks, and my kids don’t quite have the patience either to find the meat amongst the tiny chicken wing bones (although I seemed to have managed fine at their age!).

So I like to use chicken thighs with the bone and skin for this Caramel Chicken recipe. With chicken thighs, the bones help to flavour the sauce during the braising time, and there is plenty of succulent meat on each thigh for each person.

And for those of you who like to eat with a knife and fork (I’m talking to you, hubby), chicken thighs are an easier alternative to chicken wings.

But, you could, of course, also use chicken breasts or boneless chicken thighs which have been cut into large chunks. The sauce won’t be as rich, but you will still have a very flavourful dish!

vietnamese caramel chicken in skillet with fresh herbs

How to Make Caramel Chicken

Step 1

Season the chicken all over generously with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

raw chicken thighs on white chopping board

Step 2

Heat some oil in a large saucepan which will comfortably fit all of the chicken pieces in a single layer.

Brown the chicken, skin-side down first, until the fat has rendered and the skin is golden all over.

Turn the chicken over and brown the other side as well.

Remove all of the chicken pieces to a large plate.

browned chicken thighs in large skillet

Step 3

Turn the heat down and sauté the garlic and ginger, together with a good pinch of sea salt, until they have softened.

sautéed ginger and garlic in skillet

Step 4

Add the brown sugar to the pan. Stir the sugar into the oil until it has dissolved.

caramel sauce with ginger and garlic in skillet

Step 5

Add the rest of the ingredients for the caramel sauce into the pan, and return the chicken pieces with the skin side up. The sauce should come up about halfway up the sides of the chicken.

Cover the pan with a lid and simmer on low heat for about 40 minutes.

chicken thighs braising in caramel sauce

Step 6

Remove the lid, turn the chicken pieces over, and simmer on medium heat for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced and starts to become thick and sticky.

It might seem like there is too much liquid in the pan and that it will never reduce, but please be patient! If you are not patient, you can increase the heat 😉

But what is important is that the chicken (especially if you are using chicken thighs with the bones) is fully cooked through and is tender throughout.

I generally aim to cook the chicken until it falls away from the bone easily, before focusing on reducing the sauce to the right consistency.

vietnamese caramel chicken braising in large skillet

More Vietnamese Recipes

If you are looking for more Vietnamese recipes, you might also like:

Vietnamese Chicken Pho

Vietnamese Pho Soup

Vietnamese Shaking Beef

Print

Vietnamese Caramel Chicken with Ginger

Chicken thighs braised in a sweet and sticky Vietnamese-style caramel sauce. This Vietnamese Caramel Chicken with Ginger is delicious served with steamed rice. Recipe with step-by-step photos.

  • Author: Thanh Eat, Little Bird
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 60 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Vietnamese

Ingredients

For the Braised Chicken

  • 12 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 chicken thighs with skin and bones
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5 cm (2 inch) piece of ginger, sliced into thin matchsticks

For the Caramel Sauce

  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) chicken stock
  • 250 ml (1 cup) coconut water (unsweetened)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To Serve

  • coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
  • red chillies, finely chopped
  • steamed rice

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil over high heat in a large saucepan which will fit all of the chicken pieces comfortably in a single layer.
  2. Season the chicken on both sides generously with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  3. Place the chicken pieces skin-side down in the pan, and cook until golden. This step will also help to render the fat in the chicken skin, which will give a lot of flavour to the sauce later.
  4. Turn the chicken pieces over and brown the other side as well.
  5. Remove the chicken pieces to a large plate.
  6. Remove any excess oil in the pan – you want just a few tablespoons of fat in the pan.
  7. Reduce the stove to medium heat.
  8. Add the garlic and ginger, together with a good pinch of sea salt.
  9. Cook the garlic and ginger for a few minutes until they have softened.
  10. Add the brown sugar and stir until it has dissolved.
  11. Add the remaining ingredients for the caramel sauce.
  12. Return the chicken pieces to the pan with the skin-side facing up.
  13. Bring the pan to a gentle simmer and then turn the stove down to low heat.
  14. Cover with a lid and braise the chicken for about 40 minutes.
  15. Remove the lid.
  16. Turn the chicken pieces over.
  17. Simmer the chicken on medium heat for a further 20 to 30 minutes. Chicken thighs generally require a long cooking time so that the meat can tenderise and fall easily off the bone. 
  18. During this time, the sauce will reduce and slowly become thick and sticky. It might seem like it will never reduce, but be patient! I generally aim to cook the chicken until the meat falls away from the bone easily, and then I will focus on reducing the sauce to the right consistency.
  19. As you are waiting for the sauce to reduce, taste for seasoning. If, for whatever reason, your sauce has reduced too much, simply dilute with some more coconut water or boiling water.
  20. Once you are ready to serve, garnish with coriander (cilantro) and red chillies.

Kitchen Notes

MAKE IT WITH SKINLESS CHICKEN BREASTS OR CHICKEN THIGHS
Slice 600 g (1.3 lb) chicken breasts and/or thighs into large chunks. Cook as per the recipe above, but reduce the cooking time to about 30 minutes without the lid on a low-medium heat. As the meat is not on the bone, you don’t need to cook the chicken for as long.

MAKE IT CHILD-FRIENDLY
The black pepper, as well as the fresh ginger, can make this dish a little spicy. Either omit both ingredients, or reduce the quantities.

CONVERSIONS
To convert from cups to grams, and vice-versa, please see this handy Conversion Chart for Basic Ingredients.

Did you make this recipe?

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