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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Basic Vietnamese Marinade for Chicken or Pork

January 21, 2010 updated from the archives:

Basic Vietnamese Marinade Chicken 1

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:

Thit Suon Nuong (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops) 5

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?

Basic Vietnamese Marinade Chicken 2

My old pork photo too.

Basic Vietnamese Marinade Pork 2


  1. i did not know that taste buds had names.

  2. Do you have the real Bac Ha? I have been searching for this plant for some time. Everyone has a different opinion about which Colocasia or Alocasia it really is. Reportedly, the real Bac Ha can be eaten raw. Have you eaten this plant raw without any discomfort? I would be very interested in your comments about this.

    Thanks, Barry

  3. Hi Barry,
    Yes, I have the real bac ha. You can see pictures of it under my "I garden" posts.

    I've never tried eating it raw. I've eaten it barely cooked in canh chua (sour fish soup) and pickled, and have never experienced any discomfort. If it gives you stomach problems, then it's the wrong species. Where are you located? Are you looking to grow it? If you're simply looking to eat it, it's commonly sold in Asian supermarkets in SoCal.

  4. Yes I am looking to grow. I grow many varieties of Colocasia and Alocasia. I live in South Florida. I will be glad to pay for it or trade for something you might not have. I have many different tropical edibles in my forest garden.

  5. Hi Barry,
    Sure, a plant trade might be fun. :)

  6. This marinade is freakin' AWESOME! My chicken is even better on the third day and cold. Yummy!


  7. Jenny,
    Thanks! I'm so glad it worked out for you, even with my imprecise instructions. Yummy cold chicken is a great compliment! :) This was one of my early recipes. I guess I should revisit it and put more precise measurements.

  8. this dish has such a sweet taste, so yummy:) I'm just wondering why you can cook it so long though, for 20 minutes? Did u add water when you add the sauce and spices to the pot? I followed your direction and even add a cup of water, but then the sauce evaporate so fast it almost burnt in 10 minutes. Then I checked and see the meat are cooked through (I cut up the chicken to about 1 to 2 inch size) So I just ate them like that:P I dont know if its right but it tasted good anyway. And I added a lot more sugar though, because I'm all for the sweetness

  9. KhanhVan,
    I cook it for 20 min so the meats can be really tender. I only add water if the meats are drying out, otherwise, I've never felt the need to as the meats release juices when they cook. Is your temperature too high? I usually leave it on medium-low. I'll have to update the recipe since this was early on and I was not nearly so precise.

    Aha! Yes, I need to specify this is for whole pieces of chicken or pork chops, not small cut up pieces because that would cook way faster.

  10. ohmy! these chicken wings are just calling out to me! i have never heard of Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)! I know right and i live in Southeast Asia. What a shame. Will definitely try to find the fish sauce to make these chicken wings:)

  11. Chocolate Cup,
    Never heard of fish sauce!

  12. Oh this was so yummy! Thanks for sharing this recipe. It's exactly like what I used to have back at home. I followed the recipe pretty closely, but chose to put less vinegar and soy sauce (the brand I have seems to be quite strong).

    I've been looking through a lot of your Vietnamese recipes and there's a lot I want to try for myself. Pity about not sharing the banh xeo recipe, that looks mouth-watering! I've tried it from the packet at the asian supermarket, but it didn't turn out right :(

    I am so happy that I found quail eggs for the first time in my local supermarket (it's not very high on asian foods and I don't live near an asian grocery now). Now I have the chance to try out more recipes with them!

    Thanks for all your recipes. I'll let you know how my attempts go with your recipes.

  13. Thanh Ngoc,
    Thanks for trying my recipe! Adjustments are always OK since brands and taste buds vary. Let me know if you try anything else.

  14. Pretty fantastic recipe, I am trying to create rice paper rolls with vietnamese chicken.
    I am a drop and taste cook as well.

  15. Can this meat be grilled on a BBQ? if so, would I make the "gravy" sauce first and reduce it, then baste my meat while grilling? …

  16. Marina,
    Yup, if you look at the grilled pork chop recipe, that's what it looks like. I just mixed the marinade ingredients together and added the pork chops and let them marinate for a few hours. Then grill. Reducing to make the gravy is only when you're cooking them in a pan or oven.

  17. What brand of rice wine do you use?

  18. Would it taste well with chopped chicken thighs?


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