My husband and I recently established a Friday night ritual of going to our favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Randolph, MA – Pho 98 Cuisine – where we usually enjoy a first course of brightly colored and flavored cabbage salad garnished with duck, chicken or shrimp, and then a chicken or pork dish for each of us. We missed doing that this past Friday, and my taste buds were feeling deprived.
I solved that matter yesterday with a stop at Kam Man market in Quincy after an appointment in the area, and stocked up on some of their beautiful produce and other staples that I keep on hand for Southeast Asian cooking at home. My specific craving was for a lemongrass roasted chicken with spicy cucumber salad and sesame noodles on the side.
A quick search of the web led me to the Fine Cooking recipe archive for a truly spectacular recipe for Lemongrass Roast Chicken, which I found to be almost exactly the same as the recipe in my Mai Pham cookbook, Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table.
I rarely follow a recipe exactly as written, except when it comes to breads which can be tricky if you mess with them. This one, however, spoke to me in a language I could taste and so, except for altering the method of roasting, I used the exact ingredients for the marinade, the added coating of lemongrass and cilantro, and the exquisite dipping sauce.
Rather than reproduce the whole recipe here, simply click on the link above to find detailed ingredients, and do try the method I mentioned in my review – butterfly the chicken and roast it in a 12″ cast iron skillet at 400 for 45 minutes. When done, it will look like this and you’ll want to spoon the gorgeous sauce all over it after cutting it with poultry shears. NOTE: One long stalk of lemongrass produced the required 1/2 cup of minced…I did not need the 3 suggested in the recipe.
(from Fine Cooking)
The spicy cucumber salad and sesame noodles were perfect accompaniments.
SPICY CUCUMBER SALAD
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp water
1 tsp Thai chili sauce
1/2 very large English cucumber, sliced in half vertically, seeds lightly scooped out, and cut into thin half-moons
1 small shallot halved and thinly sliced
Several sprigs cilantro and mint leaves torn into small pieces, or chopped
In medium bowl combine first 5 ingredients until sugar is completely dissolved. Add the cucumber, shallot, and herbs and stir to get everything covered with the dressing. Refrigerate until time to serve.
Follow the link to this recipe which I submitted years ago to Epicurious, and which appears in the cookbook they later published. It’s best served warm or room temperature, but leftovers can be enjoyed right from the fridge. I did not add the usual complement of optional vegetables such as snow peas, red pepper or mushrooms for this meal’s side dish – simply a handful of the Thai basil from Kam Man to keep it simple.
The resulting meal was as good as anything I’ve ever enjoyed at Pho 98 or any other Vietnamese establishment. And the kitchen did smell like there was a restaurant in the neighborhood.