Food on Friday: Secret sauce

ChickenWhat did you do this week? Me? I solved one of the universe’s craziest mysteries. No biggie.

Allow me to explain. It involves Chinese food. Chinese food is one of my favorite things to eat, but something I don’t often make. It always tastes so much better from the restaurant, right? They seem to use some special ingredients that will forever remain a Chinese restaurant secret. Something that makes the average chicken taste magically caramelly and delicious.

As it turns out, it’s caramel. That’s the magic ingredient. They mix two tablespoons of sugar with one tablespoon of water, let it turn brown, and throw it on the chicken. And it is incredibly and indescribably tasty.

This is a recipe for Lemongrass Chicken. To be honest, I’ve made it twice now, and the lemongrass flavor doesn’t really come through. So if it’s not easily available, save yourself the $4 and the trip to Whole Foods.

Next up, the extinction of dinosaurs…

Lemongrass Chicken


  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 fresh lemongrass stalks, tender inner white bulbs only, minced
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 3 chilies, seeded and minced
  • 1 scallion for garnishing

In a bowl, combine the fish sauce, garlic, curry powder, salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the sugar. Add the chicken meat to coat.

In a small skillet, mix the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar with 1 tablespoon of the water and cook over high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Cook without stirring until a deep amber caramel forms. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of water. Transfer to a bowl.

Heat a wok over high heat. Add the oil and heat until shimmering. Add the lemongrass, shallot, and chilies and stir-fry until fragrant. Add the chicken and caramel and stir-fry until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is slightly thickened. Transfer to a bowl and top with the scallion. Serve with steamed white rice.