Shhh! Don't tell anyone but even though I list measurements on my recipes, I don't really measure anything. I'm a drop cook. Drop a little of this, drop a little of that. Many years ago when I first lived on my own and had to cook for myself, I would play around with my condiments and seasonings. Years later, that method still works.
I'm stating that based on the fact that my mom has been known to take bread or rice paper to mop up my sauces. The only steady ingredient is Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce), the only method cooking down the liquid and seasonings until a thick gravy sauce is formed.
This "recipe" works best for chicken or pork, as those meats get more tender the longer they're cooked. Fish sauce is key because it hits that fifth taste bud - umami. Umami is hard to describe. It's like a deep savoriness. Open your cupboards and start tossing in ingredients to figure out what works for you. Just make sure fish sauce is in there.
Thit Suon Nuong (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops) updated from the archives October 1, 2013:
Basic Vietnamese Marinade for Chicken or Pork
For about 2 lbs of meat, you'll need:
1 tblsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)
1 tblsp soy sauce
1 tblsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Optional: 2 tsp Sriracha
Wash and rinse whole chicken pieces or pork chops. This works best on chicken wings and thighs or pork chops. If you plan to cook smaller pieces of meat, then less cooking time is needed.
Mince the shallots and garlic. Set aside.
In a large saute pan, on medium heat start dumping in ingredients. If you must, I'd estimate maybe a tablespoon or two of the fish sauce, soy sauce and white wine vinegar. And 1 tsp of everything else. Stir until all the seasonings have coated the meat. Place the lid on the pan and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Check and stir everything again. Taste the marinade and adjust if necessary. Place lid on again and leave for another 10 minutes.
At the 20-minute mark, the liquids should start thickening into a sauce, and the meat should be thoroughly coated. Leave the lid off this time so the sauce can "dry" out and thicken further. Check every 5 minutes or so until sauce is the consistency you wish and the meat is thoroughly cooked. That's it.
The sauce is lovely spooned over rice. But even if you don't do that, the process of reducing the liquids into a gravy concentrates the flavors so the chicken or pork is really flavorful.
My other Vietnamese chicken wing recipe:
Sriracha Buffalo Wings
Now, let's look at my old mess of a photo. Eek! What a hodgepodge! The sauce looks good though, yeah?
My old pork photo too.