We learned the recipe for this braised chicken and oyster mushrooms with Thai basil at a cooking school in Cu Chi, a hour or so from the center of Saigon.
Writing the recipe for this dish brings back a lot of memories. I am reminded how many stories about Saigon I haven’t written yet probably the most poignant of which is about our afternoon at the War Remnants Museum. I have enough photos to write about the Vietnam War, its antecedents and aftermath. I’ll write about it, eventually. I should. The angle is what I haven’t figured out yet. So, for now…
What is it this dish exactly? Marinated chicken fillets are cooked with lemongrass, garlic, ginger, oyster mushrooms and a sprig of Thai basil for a fast and tasty main dish. Perfect with rice.
At the cooking school, we cooked the dish with lemongrass, basil and mushrooms we had just picked from the adjacent farm. Nothing compares with fresh ingredients. And nothing’s fresher than something you just plucked minutes before cooking.
We also cooked the chicken and mushrooms in a claypot. But our claypot at home isn’t meant for stovetop cooking so Alex did the braising in a thick-bottomed frying pan.
Is there a difference in the final result? The overall texture. Cooked in a claypot, the chicken is more moist. But if you’re careful enough, you can achieve superb results with a frying pan. Just make sure it has a thick bottom because this dish is cooked over medium-high heat and you don’t want any scorching to occur.
Braised Chicken and Oyster Mushrooms with Thai Basil
- Cut the chicken fillets into 1½ inch cubes.
- In a bowl, combine the fish sauce and oyster sauce. Add the cubed chicken fillets and mix well. Cover, refrigerate and marinate for at least an hour.
- Cut off the roots and dark green portions of the lemongrass, and discard.
- Peel off and discard the outer layer of the remaining (light-colored) portion of the stalks to get the usable part. Lightly pound the usable part and mince.
- Peel the skin off the ginger, then mince.
- Smash the garlic cloves, shake off the skins and discard. Mince the garlic.
- Cut off and discard the top part (with the stem) of the chilies. Split in the chilies in half, scrape off and discard the seeds (unless you want your dish to be super spicy) before mincing.
- Set the stove to medium-high. Heat up a large thick-bottomed pan and pour in the oil.
- Sauté the lemongrass, ginger, garlic and chilies, until just starting to turn brown.
- Add the chicken fillets. Stir then spread them out in a single layer. When the chicken changes color, flip them over.
- Add a cup of water. Stir. Allow to boil uncovered.
- Tear the mushrooms apart into bite-size pieces.
- Add the mushrooms to the chicken, stir, and place a sprig of basil on top. Cover the pan tightly.
- Count ten seconds then turn off the heat. Wait ten minutes before lifting the cover. The chicken should be done at this point.
- Scoop out the contents of the pan and transfer to a shallow bowl. Optionally, garnish with a fresh basil sprig before serving.
If you cooked this dish (or made this drink) and you want to share your masterpiece, please use your own photos and write the cooking steps in your own words.