Ga hap rau ram: steamed chicken with Vietnamese mint
An aromatic dish of chicken.
Aka gà hấp rau răm. This started out as gà xé phay, a classic appetiser from the North/Centre. See, I had those rau răm leaves from the supermarket, so I thought I would make it from Bach Ngo’s Classic Cuisine of Vietnam. That was before I thought, “Hey, remember that cookbook you brought from Vietnam? See if you can find the recipe in there”. Fifteen minutes later, I was still seating at the table with the cookbook open at the page of the recipe, and the dictionary open on my knees–flipping through pages, muttering and cursing, and pausing only brief to google a tricky word that wasn’t in the dictionary or in my personal vocabulary. The variant in the book looked like an interesting recipe, except that a. I didn’t have most of the ingredients listed, and b. some things were plain odd, for instance the marinating of the onions followed by a complete omission of said onions from the subsequent bits of the recipe (or the surprise appearance of the rau răm about halfway through the recipe).
So I did what I usually do: went wild. Most of the stuff I didn’t have either got substituted or nixed; and the stuff I didn’t understand got fixed by referring to the Bach Ngo recipe. The end result is… pretty unconnected to either of the two recipes, but it tastes pretty good!
Do try to find rau răm if you can: it’s really one of those recipes that tastes quite different if you do the usual mint substitution.
For the nước chấm recipe, see here.
- 600g chicken
- 1 red onion, sliced paper thin
- 1 tablespoon rice wine
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sriracha sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 6 tablespoons nuoc cham
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 garlic clove, cut into small pieces
- ⅔ cup rau ram leaves, chopped into small pieces
- Mix together the salt, the rice wine, 1 tablespoon sriracha, the sugar, the pepper and the red onion (in this order precisely, in order to have a smooth sauce before putting in the onion). Let the flavours develop for 20-30 minutes.
- Cut the chicken into rough chunks, and steam it in a basket for 20-30 minutes, until cooked.
- Meanwhile, mix the sauce: the hoisin, the nuoc cham, the sesame oil, the garlic clove and 1 tablespoon of the sriracha. Taste and adjust: it should be sweet with a kick and a tang (especially, the hoisin taste shouldn't overwhelm the other flavours).
- When the chicken is cooked, chop it into small pieces. Mix well with the rau ram leaves.
- Take the onions out of their liquid, rinse them once in cold water, and add to the chicken. Mix well.
- Pour the sauce on top of the chicken-rau ram-onion mixture. Serve with rice and a vegetable.
Sriracha can be replaced with your favorite chilli sauce.
You can also fry the red onion for a small bit before putting it into the marinade, if you don't want the dish to taste strongly of onions (I don't mind, but the H does).