When I was in Hanoi I was awestruck by the intense flavour of the chicken (clearly not battery-farmed). Something told me it was fresh when I could hear the roosters cock-a-doodle-dooing outside my hotel room. I never did get the name of this delectable dish, which originally had fried wings slathered in a spicy tamarind sauce with pickled chillies and shallots. I morphed it into seared boneless thighs to make a simple meal. Be sure to pick up corn-fed or free-range chicken as it makes a big difference.
Combine the chicken, fish sauce, sugar and garlic in a large bowl and season with black pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight if time permits.
Meanwhile, to make the tamarind sauce, put all the ingredients in a small saucepan and stir over low heat for 5 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Drain the chicken and pat dry with paper towel. Dust the chicken in cornflour and shake off the excess. Put two large frying pans over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to each pan. When the oil is nearly smoking, add the chicken and cook, in batches, for 3 minutes on each side. When the chicken is browned all over, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, turning frequently, for another 5 minutes or until cooked through. Drain on paper towel.
Transfer the hot crisp chicken to a large serving platter. Spoon the tamarind sauce over the top, then scatter with the sliced shallots, pickled chilli and herbs. Top with Fried Shallots & Garlic.
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