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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Ga Kho Gung (Vietnamese Braised Chicken with Ginger)

Ga Kho Gung (Vietnamese Braised Chicken with Ginger) 1

One of the times when lil' sis and I were home in Portland, our parents had already made plans to go out for dinner. What? They were abandoning us? :( Don't worry, daddy said. He made us a special chicken dish from his hometown.

When lil' sis and I checked the pot, it turned out to be Ga Kho Gung (Vietnamese Braised Chicken with Ginger). While you could make this recipe with whole pieces of chicken, my dad chopped his chicken into bite-sized pieces, bones and all. Daddy's a country boy, where some of the neighbors literally live in mud floor huts with palm leaf walls. Eating a whole drumstick or thigh per person would have been a luxury. Hence, the chopping. It also makes for easier eating.

Once, while munching on chicken wings, lil' sis ate the drumettes and wingettes, but threw away the wing tips. What extravagant waste! My mom said when we were in the refugee camps in Hong Kong that she used to ask restaurants for their discarded wing tips. She would then take the wing tips back to our barracks and braise them, much like this.

Of course, you needn't be so frugal. Whole chicken pieces such as thighs or drumsticks or even wings would work just fine. You could even just cube boneless chicken thighs or breasts. But me, I like the chopped chicken pieces. They remind me of how far we've come.

This recipe is intended to have a lot of sauce. Spoon the sauce over rice or even dip with bread if you'd like.

Ga Kho Gung (Vietnamese Braised Chicken with Ginger) 2

Ga Kho Gung
(Vietnamese Braised Chicken with Ginger)

For half a chicken or 4 pieces of chicken, you'll need:

Nuoc Mau (Vietnamese Caramel Sauce)
4 pieces of chicken, preferably thighs, cut into two-inch chunks if you wish
2 shallots or 1 small onion, diced small
4 to 6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2-inch knob of ginger, sliced
1 tblsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce), or more according to taste
3 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup water

Optional: If you don't want to make the caramel sauce, you can substitute by adding 1 tblsp of Indonesian Kecap Manis.

Wash and cut the chicken. Dice the shallots or onion. Mince the garlic. Slice the ginger.

Make the Vietnamese caramel sauce if you wish. Otherwise, put the chicken pieces into the pot of caramel sauce and add 1 tblsp fish sauce, 3 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp ground black pepper, and 1 cup water. Add in the shallots, garlic, and ginger and mix everything up.

This recipe is very forgiving. I chopped up what was left of my Ga Ro Ti Xa (Vietnamese Roasted Lemongrass Chicken) and added it into the pan as well. Cook on medium heat until the liquid starts reducing.

Ga Kho Gung (Vietnamese Braised Chicken with Ginger) 3

About 20 minutes later and the liquid is still a little loose. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Ga Kho Gung (Vietnamese Braised Chicken with Ginger) 4

And 40 minutes later, a nice thick caramel sauce has formed.

Ga Kho Gung (Vietnamese Braised Chicken with Ginger) 5

The times might vary depending on your stove. Make sure you check and add water if needed so the chicken doesn't burn.

Serve with rice and a side of sauteed greens.

Ga Kho Gung (Vietnamese Braised Chicken with Ginger) 6


Who made my recipe for ga kho gung?
Nathan of La Cocina de Nathan who added a lot more fish sauce and salt per his taste buds said, "These are the ratios I used, and I loved it." Which just goes to show that this recipe is very adaptable.

My other Vietnamese braised dishes:
Bo Kho Mang (Vietnamese Braised Beef with Bamboo Shoots)
Ca Kho To (Vietnamese Braised Catfish in a Claypot)
Suon Kho Xa Gung Toi Ot (Vietnamese Braised Pork Chops with Lemongrass, Ginger, Garlic, and Chilies)
Thit Heo Kho Dau Hu (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Tofu)
Thit Heo Kho Mit (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Jackfruit)
Thit Heo Kho Trung (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs)
Xiu Mai (Vietnamese Meatballs)

1 year ago today, Palms Thai Restaurant - Los Angeles (Hollywood).
2 years ago today, Khmer classical dance at Koulen Restaurant - Siem Reap, Cambodia.
3 years ago today, lil' sis made star-shaped cupcakes.


  1. My mom's comfort food.

    Your dad has the right idea with chopping the chicken into small pieces - IMO "breaking" the bones also releases the flavor and takes the dish to a whole new level (this is true with Vietnamese chicken curry, as well).

  2. hi wc - what a great recipe! so simple. i've never had this, but i'd love to make it. i just made a chicken dish the other night (adobo/wing parts only).

  3. is it really from tuy hoa?! i love this dish! and i like the chx chopped up too!

  4. oh I love this! I need second helping of rice to enjoy this dish. Love the caramel sauce and Vietnamese fish sauce which adds a different dimension to how my mum cook hers.

  5. GC,
    I didn't think of that, but yes, chopping into the big thigh bones released a lot of marrow. Also, I keep the skin on when cooking too because that's where all the flavor is.



    It reminds me of adobo except obviously with fish sauce instead of soy sauce.

    I don't think so? Seems like a lot of Vietnamese have this dish. And you forget, my daddy is from the country so that's not his hometown. :P

    I like plain white bread to mop up the gravy.

  6. Lil' Sis and her extravagant waste! Tsk tsk tsk. =)

    I like the background story/info. The only thing stopping us from chopping up chicken pieces is fear of the bone! We're afraid we're going to ruin our knives.

  7. yes, you're right wc. except i don't use water in my adobo recipe. i plan to make this recipe this week. i pretty have all the ingredients!

  8. How much nuoc mau do you add? Just enough to cover the bottom?

    Btw, this is one of my favorite childhood dishes! Glad you posted a recipe!

  9. TS,
    I know! Spoiled kids born in America! ;) I used my big butcher knife and made short work of it.

    I add water when I make adobo or else it'd burn. Well, I also don't use nearly as much soy sauce or vinegar either as a lot of Filipino adobo I've eaten is way too salty for me.

    If you click on the nuoc mau link, it'll give you directions and portions. I just make it when I cook so just enough per batch, about 2 tblsp to 1/4 cup.

  10. DROOL. Talk about comfort food. :)

  11. I made this for dinner tonight! I love how you give me actual recipe for childhood favorites! My mom's "recipes" were always "little bit of this, cook it, and some of this if you want..." hahhaha your recipes are a lot easier to follow and taste just as good!

    I added a few chili peppers just to jazz it up though ;)

    Thanks again - Karen

  12. Marie,

    Thanks for trying out my recipe so quickly! My mom cooks with a bit of this and a bit of that too. :P

  13. I'm at the finishing stages of making this for the first time.
    So far so good and it smells real nice too. Thanks for sharing your recipe - it's another recipe success from your blog!

    I put the ingredients in step by step as per your instructions from when I made the caramel sauce. I think I should've added in the water first because by the time I did, the chicken was the tiniest bit burnt, but no worries.

  14. We used to ask Frenchmen in Paris's open Farmer's Market for wing tips and chicken legs too when we were students in the 70's.
    Your blog is truly unique! Reading your recipes and recollection of your Family cultural heritage add a dignified dimension to your simple but excellent dishes.
    Wish you and all the readers a Very Happy, Healthy New Year of the Cat (Rabbit for Chinese:)

  15. I'm going to make this, it looks very delicious I prepare the Veitnamese pork and egg in a similar fashion. Like I use garlic, scallions, ginger, caramel sauce, sugar to taste, fish sauce, pepper and instead of water I'll use coconut juice or soda. The chicken is similar except it uses onion instead of scallion and water instead of coco juice.

    I was wondering if I could add hard-boiled eggs to teh chicken? to stretch out the dish (well honestly i just love the taste of eggs braised in that type of cooking liquid lol.)

  16. Wild pop art,
    Thanks for giving me such good feedback every time you make a recipe! Yeah, I usually do add water first because the caramel sauce will already get things scorching if it's not watered down fast. Then the seasonings blend more easily that way too.

    Oh wow. What a fantastic comment. Thanks!

    I don't see why not? Who says hard-boiled eggs are only limited to thit kho? I like dipping soft white or French bread into these braised dishes.

  17. I've been perusing your site for a while now but finally attempted one of the dozens of recipes I've earmarked! What I love about your site is that it's almost like a family photo album of memories via food - and now I can know how to actually make it! This dish is one of my childhood faves and I've attempted to make it before but without the caramel sauce step, so now I know what it was missing. However, I definitely need to watch the sauce next time because it was sloooooooooooowly boiling for about 9 minutes and then in that last minute the caramel sauce just darkened and slightly burnt so fast! So my chicken had a little bit of a bitter burnt taste, but still good. Your chicken Roti is next on my list to try!

  18. Linda,
    I love that you described it as "a family photo album of memories via food." That's exactly what I try to do. I like this best when the caramel sauce is in that thick phase, right before it starts to burn. Gotta get it at the right moment!

  19. Thank you .im on a vietnamese journey.

  20. Nora Life,
    Hope you're enjoying it!

    Yes, the caramel sauce can go very quickly from dark brown to burnt if you don't pay attention. Even when you take it off the burner, the sugar is very hot and will continue cooking.

  21. I just made this today and it was delicious and reminded me of my childhood. Thanks WC!


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