Trinh Diem Vy is a third generation Vietnamese cook and is considered one of the country’s most reputable restaurateurs. During a trip to Hoi An a few years ago I had the opportunity to take a class at her famous Morning Glory Cooking School and the experience was undoubtedly the highlight of my time in Vietnam. While her relatively young age, short stature and attractive appearance may suggest otherwise, Ms. Vy is a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen. She wields a machete like peeler at lightening speed to strip a green papaya into fine shreds, all the while commanding a brigade of cooks around her to line up mise en place for her next dish. Her two hour tutorial in Vietnamese cookery is interwoven with personal anecdotes of her childhood spent in the kitchen and a comprehensive description of regional ingredients and their effect on health. It is a wealth of information that is rivaled only by the flavor of the food she produces.
A clear standout is her recipe for keffir lime barbecued chicken, which can also be made using tofu as a substitute. Its secret lies in a marinade layered with fish sauce, finely chopped lime leaves, lemongrass, brown sugar and chilies among other things. Its flavor reflects quintessential Southeast Asian cuisine, an intriguing balance of salty, sour, sweet and spicy. The predominant flavor of citrus and fruity heat from the chilies melds with brown sugar into a tangy, caramelized crust on the chicken. A cold tangle of crunchy green papaya, served the traditional way with lime juice, peanuts and fried shallots, is the perfect accompaniment to this dish. It creates a delicious contrast in temperature, flavor and texture in a way that balances rather than detracts from the meal.
If you are looking for way to broaden your barbecue repertoire this summer, this enticing spin on grilled chicken is both healthful and insanely good. My guess is you have yet to taste anything like it. There are only two things to consider before jumping in with both feet to make it. First, you need to locate a supplier of fresh keffir lime leaves and Thai basil. Fortunately there are several options online if you don’t have a local source. Secondly, the marinade requires a fair amount of slicing and dicing so you should allow at least thirty to forty minutes of prep time. The majority of this dish can be made in advance, making it a great choice for entertaining a large crowd. It also pairs terrifically well with beer, making it a near perfect choice for this summer’s outdoor barbecue soiree.
courtesy of Taste Vietnam: The Morning Glory Cookbook by Trinh Diem Vy
800g boneless chicken thighs, skin off
1/3 C fresh tumeric or 1 Tbsp ground tumeric
1/3 C lemongrass, pounded
1 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp coarse black pepper
1/2 tsp five spice
4 lime leaves, sliced finely
2 Tbsp garlic, pounded
2 Tbsp shallots, pounded
1 tsp dried chili flakes
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp fish sauce
Method: Cut thighs into 16 pieces. Place in bowl. Coat the chicken in the marinade ingredients for 30 minutes then thread pieces onto the skewers. Grill 4-5 minutes on each side on low to medium heat.