Fried Chicken with Lemongrass (Ga Xao Sa Ot)

Lemongrass Meets Cayenne Pepper
Caramelized Sugar Meets Fish Sauce

Cooking with lemongrass


This classic Vietnamese dish demonstrates the classic use of Caramelized Sugar in Vietnamese cuisine, as well as the roles Lemongrass and moderate amounts of Hot Red Pepper can play. This dish serves about 8.  Recipe adapted from Bach Ngo. The use of Nuoc Mam or Fish Sauce is also typical.

Fried Chicken with Lemongrass and Cayenne Pepper

Ga Xao Sa Ot



1 stalk fresh Lemongrass
4 Chicken Thighs or Legs
2 tablespoons Nuoc Mam Fish Sauce
2 tablespoons Sugar
Freshly ground Black Pepper
3 cloves Garlic
1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 teaspoon Caramelized Sugar


To make the Caramelized Sugar: Put 1 tablespoon plain granulated white Sugar and ¼ cup Water in a dry pan over hgh heat.  When it begins to brown, start to stir, then stir constantly.  When the Sugar turns brown and steam begins to form, stir well, remove from the heat and add another 2 tablespoons of water. Continue to stir, return to high heat for about 5 minutes.  Add a few drops of Lemon juice, stir quickly a few times and remove from the heat and let cool.

To prepare the Lemongrass: If you are using fresh Lemongrass, discard the outer leaves and upper two-thirds of the stalk, then chop finely.  If fresh Lemongrassis not available, and you are using the dried variety, it must first be soaked in hot Water for 2 hours then drained and chopped finely.

To Make the Chicken: First bone the Chicken Thighs or Legs and cut them into cubes about an inch square. Chop the Garlic finely.

Combine 1 tablespoon of the Fish Sauce with the Sugar, Black Pepper, 2 cloves of Garlic and the Lemongrass. Sprinkle over the Chicken cubes and let it marinate half an hour.

Then heat the oil over a high flame and stir in the remaining garlic.  Add the Chicken pieces and continue stirring for 5 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon of Fish Sauce, the Cayenne Pepper and Caramelized Sugar. Cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes, and then serve with Rice.

For a similar  Vietnamese dish, see the link for Lemongrass Chicken in this site.


Bata sign, downtown Saigon, 1966

4 thoughts on “Fried Chicken with Lemongrass (Ga Xao Sa Ot)

  1. Pingback: Bach Ngo, master of classic Vietnamese cuisine | Pacific Rim Gourmet

  2. Pingback: Vietnamese cuisine | Pacific Rim Gourmet

  3. Looking forward to trying the recipe but for now more interested in your black and white photo of people riding bicycles on a Saigon street in 1966. I’d like to track down the photographer to ask permission to print it in a book. Thanks!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Rosemarie. As I am the photographer, you can discuss with me directly. It’s nice to learn that someone finds this kind of views interesting and nostalgic, as I do, since they are reminders of a bygone society. I’ve been sprinkling them around as vignettes at the end of posts about Vietnamese cuisine — the Central Station, Bata Shoe Factory, street vendors, cafes and other scenes near a little hotel near the Central Market where I used to stay.

      Can you give me a little more information about the book? Thank you


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