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Monday, May 30, 2011

Ga Roti -- Vietnamese Roasted Chicken

Here's another roasted chicken attempt.  One that is quite different from the first.  I was feeling Asian and I had a whole chicken.  After literally an hour of back and forth considerations and ideas going awry due to a lack of ingredients (and laziness on my part of not wanting to go to the market), I decided on doing a Vietnamese roasted chicken dish.  This idea partially came as a buddy of mine mentioned he made this dish recently.  I wanted to try it out.

So how the hell do I make a Vietnamese roasted chicken?  I haven't had it since I was a kid so I have very vague memories of its taste.  So maybe it's blasphemy to call this Vietnamese roasted chicken.  Well, luckily it tasted really good so I didn't feel bad calling it by this name.

The inspiration for this dish stems from one of my favorite foods, ever.  Chinese roasted duck.  Of course it's going to be different.  I have different tools in my kitchen and totally different ingredients.  So... what did I translate over?  Five spice.  Definitely five spice.  Honey or maltose was another must.  I decided on honey.  And just to add another level of sweetness, I added in some hoisin sauce as well.  I wanted to add just another tiny dimension to this... so I ended up deciding on cumin.

For the marinade, for a 3.5 lb chicken:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/8 cup sweet rice vinegar
2 tbs hoisin sauce
3 tbs honey
1 tbs five spice
2 tsp sesame oil (I ran out so I used 1 tbs sesame seeds)
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
2 large shallots (I was out so I used 1/2 onion... shallots will work better)
2-3 thai chilis (optional)
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Throw everything into the food processor and process until it looks like this:

And no.  By everything, I did not mean the chicken as well.  Add the marinade mixture and apply all over the cavity and skin of the chicken.  If you want, you can even add the marinade between the skin and the meat.  I didn't.  Marinade overnight.

Make sure to have it breast side down if marinading in a bowl/dish.  If using a freezer bag, put the bag so the breast is faced down as well.  You really want the breast to soak up the marinade.  Why?  Well, you would want to flavor the meat, not the skin on the back of the chicken.  But more importantly, soy sauce acts as a brine with all it's salt.  It'll help tenderize the chicken and keep the breast moist when you roast it.

When you are ready to roast your chicken, make sure you take it out of the fridge an hour before you roast it to bring the chicken to room temperature.  Dry the chicken of excess marinade.  The marinade will burn so try to wipe it off with paper towels.  When ready, preheat oven to 425F.  You may notice that this is a lower temperature than my previous roasted chicken.  That is because I do not want the marinade to burn.  I initially started it at 450 but it was a bit too hot, so I feel 425 is a better temperature.

Anyway, preheat your roasting vessel (I highly recommend a cast iron pan here) along with the oven.  When it's nice and hot, take it out and apply a light coating of oil onto the bottom of the pan.  Place the chicken breast side down.  You should hear a nice sizzle.  My goal is not to crisp the skin, but to make sure it will not stick to the pan.  I feel having the marinade will prevent the skin from getting as crisp as I want.  More on this later.

The chicken should be done in about 45 minutes (for a 3.5lb bird).  Check the leg at the thickest part, to see if it has reached an internal temperature of 175F or just cut the leg to see if the juices run clear.  Remove the chicken from the pan and let rest for at least 15 minutes.  Now, you can make a sauce with the excess marinade.  The excess marinade is very salty and remember, contained raw chicken.

To make the sauce, I started by removing the fat from the pan (leaving 1 tbs behind).  I seared the giblets (I love me some offals) for a couple minutes each side.  After I felt the giblets were almost fully cooked, I added in the excess marinade.  I stirred frequently while the sauce reduced.  I added water and let it reduce down again.  This should kill off any bacteria.  Add more water and let it reduce down once again, to your desired consistency.  I also added some vinegar to cut the saltiness.  I really wanted to use lime, but I was out.  Again, this is very salty so it ended up being around 1.5 parts water to 1 part marinade by the time it was reduced to my consistency.  I only needed about 2 tsp of the sauce for my rice (about the amount of one Asian bowl).

So, some things that I did that I changed for this post:
-I started using 450 degrees.  That was just a bit too hot.  I feel 425 would be perfect.
-Sear the chicken after roasting it to attempt to get a crispy skin.  Not sure if it'll work, but it's worth a try.
-Or maybe apply some baking soda over the skin.  This also promotes crispiness as well.  I think I'll try this before searing the chicken after cooking.
-I initially used 1 tbs cumin, I'm lowering this amount to just 1 tsp next time.  Edit:  My buddy recommended to just omit the cumin which I'll go ahead and do.  He also said to omit the five-spice, but I will leave that.
-Onion is not a good substitute for shallots in this case.  It's better than nothing.  But next time I'm getting my butt to the market.
-Might try to add lemongrass.  I was going to add it this time, but I was out.

And there you have it.  Ga roti.  Vietnamese roasted chicken.  My way.