Continuing our exploration of Vietnamese recipes, this lemongrass marinated chicken recipe is easy enough to make on a weeknight and packs enough flavor to delight dinner party guests. I brought back some Vietnamese basil and chili seeds from my travels to Vietnam, and this summer, a certain federal judge was kind enough to grow them for me in his garden. This dish incorporated both ingredients nicely. Of course, not everyone has home-grown Vietnamese basil and chilis, but you can substitute Thai basil and chilis from your local Asian specialty store. This dish is also great for an outdoor barbecue, and tastes even better using a charcoal grill.
Like many Vietnamese recipes I have written about, this dish requires finely minced lemongrass and chopped roasted peanuts. If you make a lot of these dishes like I do, it’s best to mince several stalks of lemongrass at once – either by hand or in a food processor – and then leave them in an airtight container in your freezer for easy access. Chopped peanuts can also last for a good amount of time in your pantry.
Grilled Lemongrass Chicken – Bún gà nướng sả
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 cup finely minced lemongrass
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds or ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black peppper
- 1 package dried rice vermicelli noodles
- 1/2 cup or more Thai or Vietnamese basil
- 2 tbsp finely chopped roasted peanuts
- Flavored fish sauce (nước chấm) to taste
Prep your ingredients. Finely mince the lemongrass, if you don't have any already prepared. If not, cut the bottom half-inch off the lemongrass stalk as well as the greenish top portion of the stalk, and discard. Peel the outer layers, and then with a sharp chef's knife, thinly slice the stalk into coin-shaped pieces. Mince the coins until you are left with tiny bits. Or use a food processor. Peel and mince the garlic cloves. Toast the coriander seeds, if using, in a dry pan until fragrant, then grind.
In a bowl, combine the lemongrass, garlic, ground coriander, salt, pepper, and oil. Stir until the mixture forms a paste-like consistency. Rub the spice mixture on the chicken breasts and let marinate at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil the water necessary to cook the vermicelli noodles, shred the basil, and chop the peanuts. When the water is boiled, place the noodles in a bowl and pour the water over it. Let it stand until done, according to the noodles' package instructions, usually 9-10 minutes. When the noodles are done, drain the water, and toss noodles with some canola oil to prevent sticking. The noodles should be room temperature when you serve them.
When the chicken is done marinating, light a gas or charcoal grill or broiler, and grill or broil the chicken until done, 8-10 minutes per side.
While the chicken is cooking, make the nước chấm, if you don't have some saved already.
When the chicken is done, let cool slightly, then cut into strips.
Arrange a mound of vermicelli noodles on a plate and top with several strips of chicken. Top with plenty of basil and chopped peanuts. Serve immediately, pouring on some nước chấm to taste.