Vietnamese Star Anise and Lemongrass Chicken Claypot

I first tried this at the popular Highway 4 Restaurant in Hanoi with my brother. Sitting at the bar waiting to meet the owner of the restaurant, my brother told me about an old school friend, Dan, who had moved to Vietnam and he hadn’t seen for 18 years. At that moment, in one of the strangest coincidences, in walked the restaurant owner – Dan. It was amazing, two old mates reunited Facebook-free in downtown Hanoi. He treated us to an epic meal that included this wonderful claypot dish.

Ingredients

  • 3 lemongrass stalks
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 500 g/1 lb 2 oz boneless, skinless chicken thighs, roughly chopped
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • a pinch of sugar
  • juice of ½ lime
  • 600 ml/21 fl oz/scant cups hot chicken stock
  • rice, to serve

Method

  1. Bash the fat ends of the lemongrass stalks a couple of times with a heavy spoon to help release their delicious flavour.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, then throw in the star anise. Cook for about 10 seconds until fragrant, then add the onion and stir-fry for 5-6 minutes, or until soft. Throw in the garlic, mix well and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute.
  3. Add the chicken, bruised lemongrass, red chilli, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and the hot chicken stock, which should just cover everything. Give the ingredients a really good stir and then bring to the boll. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and tender. Remove the lid, Increase the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes to reduce the liguid slightly. The final sauce should still be fairly thin.
  4. Remove the lemongrass and star anise and serve immediately with rice.