Vietnamese Caramel Chicken Po Boy

As you probably are already aware, I have a few different ethnic cuisines that are my all-time favorites. Mexican, Thai, Indian, and well pretty much anything Asian. That includes Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, and Filipino. With hope, I pray that my kids who I cook for everyday grown up to realize that when they grow older. I’m not that guy who is serving up the same jive every week, rather I’m the dude who is serving them dishes, family style, from all over the world. I typically always do a take on this particular recipe as my entire family totally loves it, however it goes so fast that you wish you would have quadrupled the recipe or simply told the kids to slow down a bit. It’s that good. It’s Vietnamese caramel chicken, but instead of serving with a side of rice and some thinly sliced cucumbers, I made this into a po boy. I mean it’s the best of both worlds, right?

Vietnamese Caramel Chicken Po Boy Recipe
Vietnamese Caramel Chicken Po Boy Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients for the chicken and marinade:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp canola oil

Ingredients for the sauce:

  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • pinch of salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup of water

Ingredients for the sandwich:

  • Your favorite baguette
  • mayonnaise, optional
  • cherry or roma tomatoes, optional
  • head lettuce, thinly chopped
  • fresh cilantro, chopped, optional
  • 1 jalapeno, thinly sliced, optional

Sounds like a lot, but it’s really not as the ingredients for the marinade and sauce are essentially the same.

Start by combining all of your chicken and marinade ingredients into a mixing bowl or sealable plastic bag, and let this marinade for a at least a couple of hours in the refrigerator. Take the chicken out and have it come close to room temperature before you are ready to cook.

During this time, mix the sauce ingredients, and if you want, go ahead and prepare your sandwich ingredients. NOTE: The chicken cooks quickly, very quickly.

Vietnamese Caramel Chicken Po Boy Recipe
Vietnamese Caramel Chicken Po Boy Recipe

Get a large skillet out and heat it to medium-high heat. Let it heat up for a minute or two then add in the chicken. Don’t mess with the chicken. Let it do its thing for a couple of minutes, then start stirring it around. Cook the chicken for about 7 minutes, then turn on your kitchen vent and add in the sauce. Stir, coating the chicken and cook quickly. The sauce will thicken and get nice and sticky. Once that happens, remove the skillet from the heat.

Whatever you do, don’t start eating the chicken yet. It’s so darn addictive that you may end up not having enough to make a sandwich!

Now it’s time to make the sandwich. Lather both sides of your sandwich with mayonnaise. to the bottom, add the shredded lettuce and tomatoes. Top with a bunch of the caramelized chicken, then top with cilantro and jalapenos. Almost a banh mi style without the pickled elements. Fold, push down on the sandwich, and open wide.

This sandwich is awesome. Sticky chicken packed with great Asian flavors really knocks this one out of the park. Hope you enjoy!

Thai Style Honey

Thai honey… I know, big deal right? It is what you do with it that gets really, really good. We were running out of honey so I decided I pick some up at our local farmers market. The vendor had plenty to chose from but we decided to pick up a ‘standard’ batch of local honey. My wife typically uses honey in her teas but I typically use it in my cooking. That’s when I thought I would take some of that honey and infuse it with some Thai flavors.

Thai Style Honey Recipe
Thai Style Honey Recipe

This is so easy to make, stores well in the refrigerator, and is perfect drizzled on salads, pizza, or sandwiches.

Let’s get started.

  • 1 cup of honey
  • 3 Thai bird chilies (less for less heat)
  • 1 inch of lemongrass

Add the ingredients to a small pot, and cook on low for about 30 minutes. This will allow for those flavors to infuse the honey.

Thai Style Honey Recipe
Thai Style Honey Recipe

Pour into a sealable container, and place in the refrigerator until it is ready to be used.

The result is a great, sweet honey with just the right amount of spice. Your guest will be questioning what the heck it is, especially with that note of lemongrass. Hope you enjoy!

Baked Tilapia in Red Curry Sauce

Tilapia gets a bad rap in my opinion, and there are probably reasons why. They get a bad rap for many reasons, however being surrounded by many Filipino family members, tilapia seems to be the default fish of choice, and probably for many reasons. But to be honest, it’s a fish that we tend to enjoy, whether it be baked, fried, grilled, or even put into a soup.  So recently I purged some items in our freezer, and tilapia was one of those items. I decided to come up with something new, yet something familiar for the family to try. Baked tilapia in a red curry sauce.

Baked Tilapia in Red Curry Sauce Recipe
Baked Tilapia in Red Curry Sauce Recipe

I knew all of my kids loved fish, and many of us love the red curry and coconut curry that I often make with chicken, vegetables, and rice. So this tilapia dish was not stretching too far from the meal rotation.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 6 skinless tilapia fillets, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp red curry paste (use more if you desire a bit more heat)
  • 14 oz can of coconut milk
  • large handful of fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup pearl onions, optional
  • salt, to taste
  • cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lime, juiced

This dish is a one skillet recipe, which is nice not only for the cooking process, but also for the cleanup.

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.

During this time, heat a large skillet on medium heat. Add the oil, and then add in the curry paste. Use a wooden spoon and mix in that curry paste, breaking it down. Take in the aroma. I love that aroma. Add in the coconut milk and continue to break in the curry paste.

During this time, season the tilapia filets with a bit of salt and pepper and place into the oven to cook for about 10 minutes.

Tilapia with Red Curry Sauce
Tilapia with Red Curry Sauce

Once the sauce comes to a simmer, remove the fillets from the oven and add the fillets to the sauce.

Toss in the green beans and the pearl onions.

Give a gentle mix, then move the skillet into the oven to finish cooking, about 5-10 minutes. This will allow the fish to fully cook, and thicken up the sauce a bit.

Remove, plate, and squeeze on the fresh lime juice. Enjoy!

Lechon Kawali

Snack, Crackle, Pop. Repeat. I’ve said this before but Filipino food is on the rise, and much like many top chefs have predicted, Filipino food will begin to surprise you. If you have never had Filipino food, just give it a try. Granted, I have yet to find a sweet Filipino dessert that I like (but then again I do not like many desserts as I am not a sweet tooth), but the savory dishes are to die for. This one might be the one to top it off. There are many common, top, Filipino dishes that you might already be aware of such as Pancit, lumpia, or even Kare Kare, but there is one that is top notch, and that is lechon kawali.

Your cardiologist may not like you after this, nor probably your primary physician, but in moderation, this Filipino crispy pork is so simple to make, and makes a perfect party food. Traditionally made with pork belly, you can also try it with pork ribs just make sure you have plenty of fat to render on the second cooking cycle. Yep, there are two cooking steps going on here.

Filipino Lechon Kawali Recipe
Filipino Lechon Kawali Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs boneless pork belly, cut into 2 inch long strips
  • 1 head of garlic, skins removed, bulbs smashed
  • 4 whole bay leaves
  • 3 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • water
  • salt
  • canola oil
  • dipping sauce
    • White Vinegar, to your liking
    • Soy sauce, to your liking
    • Chopped garlic, to your liking
    • cracked black pepper, to your liking
    • 1 Thai birds eye chili, smashed, optional or Thai chili flakes

I recently made this for my son’s birthday party, as well as another Filipino gathering and both times they rocked the socks off of the party guests. You know you’ve done right when the Filipinos are giving you a thumbs up, a hug, or a high five after eating your food. This is a winner.

Start by adding the pork belly, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, soy sauce, and enough water to cover the pork belly into a large pot or dutch oven. Cover, and bring to a simmer, cooking for about 1 hour. This is to tenderize the pork, and infuse all of the great flavor from those aromatics.

Filipino Lechon Kawali Recipe Ingredients
Filipino Lechon Kawali Recipe Ingredients

After 1 hour or so, get a baking sheet out and line it with a wire rack.

Take the strips of pork belly and lay them on the rack, making sure any of the excess liquid goes back into the pot. Once the strips are laid out, lightly salt them with kosher salt. This will assist with the dehydration process and get them ready for the next step the following day, if not hours later in the day.

Place the baking sheet, uncovered in the refrigerator. I do this over night.

Filipino Lechon Kawali Recipe
Filipino Lechon Kawali Recipe

When you are ready to go with the next step, take the pork out of the refrigerator and cut them into bite sized cubes, about 1-2 inches in size. Go larger if you prefer.

Heat a pot of oil, about 2-3 cups of canola oil, in a medium sized pot, and bring this to about 350-375 degrees.

In batches, fry the pork. This should take about 5-7 minutes per batch. Once golden and the fat is rendered and crispy, remove with a slotted spoon or kitchen spyder and place onto a paper lined plate to remove any excess oil. Let the oil in the pot come back to temp, then repeat until the lechon kawali is cooked.

NOTE: If you are frying these bad boys, make sure you reserve some for yourself because if you turn your back, trust me, these babies will be gone. This happened to me when I brought them to a party for our friend Miguel to chop up and fry. I didn’t even get a single piece! No worries on that part however, as I know that when I am snacking with the family, that I am sure to get a few pieces.

And that dipping sauce? Go for it. The combination of garlic, vinegar, soy, and chili. That’s a whole other level when it comes to dipping sauce.

If you are looking for a great party appetizer, and don’t mind frying with a bit of oil, this one is sure to please and is a real crowd pleaser not only for those wanting to try some Filipino flavors, but for those who love great, easy food. Hope you enjoy!