Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ga Nuong Xa (Grilled Chicken with Lemongrass) ~

The other day, I had the wonderful experience of eating lunch at a for-real Vietnamese restaurant, for the first time ever. Of course, I knew what I wanted before I even parked in the lot - I wanted Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup. I had made it myself but honestly, had no idea how close I even came to the "real deal." I am happy to say, I came really close. :) The pho from the restaurant was lovely, but honestly, I think mine was just a little teensy bit richer. Am I out of line saying this? I hope not, lol. It's just that I took extreme care when I made mine, reading 4 or 5 recipes to "coach" myself on what to do. It was an all day affair, and the results were wonderful.

Still - I enjoyed the soup at the restaurant very much. I didn't like that the basil and cilantro came in big stalks - I would have preferred chopped - and the jalapenos were sliced instead of chopped, as well. But the flavor was good and it was p l e n t y. My youngest had fried shrimp, and was still a little hungry after eating those - I pushed the huge bowl toward him and said "finish this, I can't eat another bite." And he did. lol

Tonight, I decided to try my hand at using some lemongrass in a recipe. I was feeling brave and all "Vietnamese-y" LOL. I looked at a chicken recipe that sounded wonderful but I am out of carrots; I even checked out a Thai recipe with chicken that sounded wonderfully flavorful, but I have no bamboo shoots. Finally, I simply picked Ga Nuong Xa and made a few tweaks to some recipes I read. It was exquisite. Honest. I wasn't sure I'd really like lemongrass, I've only used it once or twice and in amounts so small, they didn't even matter, I suspect. Tonight, the marinade had three heaping tablespoons of minced lemongrass. And I found that I do like it, very much.

If you try this, grill it hot and fast - you want the chicken done, of course - but you want it juicy as well. I grilled mine for 5 minutes each side, over the center of the grill (keeping it away from most flareups). It was perfectly done and still juicy. I could maybe have cut off that last minute and been a little better.

Ga Nuong Xa
(Grilled Chicken with Lemongrass)

4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 teaspoons fish sauce
4 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 heaping teaspoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons finely minced lemongrass
juice and pulp of 1/2 a large lemon
4 tablespoons vegetable oil

Add all ingredients except chicken to a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Add chicken and marinate for about 15-20 minutes. In the meantime, if desired, start some rice cooking, chop veggies for stir-fry (for me, choosing these sides was good - they all came together about the same time). Start your grill heating. When the marinating time is up, place chicken on grill, and turn down the heat to low or medium low. Close the cover and grill for 5 minutes on each side, less if the breasts are thin. Serve with rice and stir fried veggies, if desired. A squeeze of lemon over the stir fry brings this all together quite nicely.


My kids loved it too. It's always a keeper for me when that happens. :)


  1. WELL DONE, YOU!!! The chicken looks fantastic. I'm seriously thinking about getting a gas grill so I can do more grilling this summer. Coal grills are terrific for flavor, but take me FOREVER to get going.

    I'm afraid the way that your pho came (big sprigs of herbs) is quite authentic. It's fresher that way and patrons can tear the leaves up the way they like it (some just pick the leaves off). Typically, you are served a plate of raw bean sprouts, Thai basil, sliced jalapenos, and a wedge or two of lemon.

  2. LOL so it was ME that was strange! lol! It's fine, I can deal with it, knowing it was supposed to be that way! I just wondered if the kitchen staff didn't finish the job before sending out the order, lol.

    My friend Brian just slopped his big bunch of basil in there and sort of let it 'steep', and then took it out. I did tear off some leaves for mine, both basil and cilantro, but I wasn't sure of the custom - most of the recipes that I had studied, I *thought* said chopped herbs but I bet I was just assuming.
    As I often do about many things, LOL.

    It did come with bean sprouts, lime, basil that was a bit purple-y (Thai?), cilantro, and jalapenos. In the bowl already were green onions, and of course the meat and noodles. The broth was beautiful. It was so yummy. I can't wait to go back. :)

    Thanks for the info - I am still very ignorant of the customs of Vietnamese food, and appreciate every bit of information.

    And you should get a gas grill, nikki! So quick, less mess, and less heating up the kitchen! You'd love it. Of course, the charcoal or wood chip flavor is missing but it can be redeemed by fantastic marinades like this one on the chicken - I'm sure you've made it many times. It was so delicious.

    BTW - I managed to root some lemongrass (2 stalks!) and am leaving it to spread until I have much much, for both cooking and landscaping. ;) It's looking so pretty, already!
    (I'm glad you're back from vacation! I hope you came back intensely refreshed.)

  3. Yeah, that purple-y basil is some kind of Thai basil. I think I'm growing it - has purple-y stems. So pretty.

    If it's just me eating pho, I'd chop up the herbs because that's how I would eat it in my bowl. However, my parents pick off the whole leaves for their bowls. I let the jalapeno swim in my bowl and them remove it. My parents eat it all.

    You've probably guessed by now, but lemongrass is VERY SHARP. Give your last adventure with scissors, I thought I'd send a word of warning ;-) Lemongrass makes a nice mounded clump, but don't grow it where it may snag an unwary bare leg.

    It's also good for you when you have the flu. Chop up some big stalks and boil it in a large pot. Place the steaming pot on the ground and sit next to it, draping a sheet or large towel over your head so that you are breathing in the captured fragrant steam.

    Can't wait to see your new building site!